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World Osteoporosis Day 2008: Athletes reveal the secret of strong bones

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Representatives from Australia’s sporting and medical arenas will join forces with the Federal Minister for Ageing, The Hon. Justine Elliott MP today (World Osteoporosis Day, 21 October) to release guidelines encouraging Australians to build healthy bones and help prevent fractures.

In Australia, about half of women and a third of men over the age of 60 will experience a fracture as a result of osteoporosis. But evidence demonstrates that the risk of fracture can be halved through a combination of exercise, a healthy diet and medication when required.

"The best activities for great bone health are those done in rapid, short bursts of high intensity such as brisk walking, jogging and weight training," said Professor Maria Fiatarone Singh, an exercise and sports scientist from the University of Sydney.

Olympic bronze medal race walker Jane Saville says there are many different exercises that improve bone and muscle strength.

"As an elite athlete, I understand the importance of building strong muscle and bone. My message for World Osteoporosis Day is that it doesn’t matter how old or fit you are, you need to start exercising, at least three times a week, to help prevent osteoporosis."

According to Osteoporosis Australia, there are four main principles behind building powerful bones:

  1. Weight bearing: these exercises are performed upright and target the large muscle groups (e.g. brisk walking, hiking, stair climbing, jogging and aerobic dance)
  2. Resistance training: also known as strength training or weight lifting, these exercises are performed with free weights or are machine-based
  3. High impact: these exercises encourage the spine and legs to carry the majority of one’s body weight (e.g. skipping with a rope)
  4. Balance training: these exercises are designed to increase the body’s sense of balance, reducing the risk of falling (e.g. standing on one leg with eyes closed, sitting on an exercise ball or performing Tai Chi)

Minister for Ageing Justine Elliot MP officially endorsed the guidelines, saying osteoporosis often went undiagnosed until a fracture occurred.

"Targeted exercise is one way of helping to reduce the risk of osteoporotic fracture. On World Osteoporosis Day, I encourage both men and women over 50 to start using these new guidelines to improve their bone health," Mrs Elliot said.

Craig Foster, former National Socceroos Captain who has represented Australia 29 times, agreed:

"Activities like football and other ball sports are great for balance and coordination, and they have weight-bearing benefits as well," he said.

Wally Masure, National Coach for the Australian Tennis Junior Development Program and former Australian Davis Cup Coach, who spent 13 years playing on the ATP Tour, echoed Craig’s sentiments.

"Many people are probably unaware that professional tennis players have around 30 per cent higher bone density in their playing arm than their non-playing arm. This demonstrates the beneficial effect of high impact exercise on bone," he said.

"You have high impact, weight bearing exercise, and balance and coordination all rolled into one with tennis."

The Exercise and Fracture Prevention Guides are available from Osteoporosis Australia (national office) and its state offices or call 1800 242 141 or visit

(Source: Osteoporosis Australia: October 2008)

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Posted On: 20 October, 2008
Modified On: 16 January, 2014


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