R. Sujatha

A good, regular exercise regimen during the growing years builds bones

  • Sunlight on the body is essential; women must engage in aerobics
  • Exercising with dumbbells is good and prevents fall

    CHENNAI: When a 24-year-old BPO employee sought medical help, her only complaint was that her mother had to help her out of the chair. She was on psychiatric therapy, not knowing the cause of this problem.

    Doctors did the routine tests, including a scan of her spine. Finally, an endocrinologist suggested a test for vitamin D deficiency. She tested positive. Her bones were slightly osteoporotic. The deficiency was because "she had not seen daylight for three years," says S. Sivamurugan, director of Soundarapandian Bone and Joint Hospital at Anna Nagar. "For every such case reported at a clinic, there are many more out there that are at risk." The reason was obvious: Long hours of work at night, rest all day and not enough exposure to sunlight had led to an early onset of osteoporosis.

    Priya, a public relations person, narrates the lifestyle of a friend in a listed information technology company. "She joined as a techie after B.A. degree and has moved up to be a manager. The gym and a yoga centre at her office are open all day but she cannot go there. Her work brief says eight hours but she is given deadlines to finish every day, and the work hours go beyond 12 hours." Unlike men, women become osteoporotic at a younger age. Adding to the problem is childbirth and poor nutrition. "We may see more women with osteoporosis in their 20s in the next 10 years if something is not done," Dr. Sivamurugan says.

    The hospital did the standard one-minute osteoporosis risk test on 450 people in the over 50-age group at Anna Nagar in September 2006, and found 57 per cent of the people were at risk. Majority of them are women. The results were collated by Amol P. Khairnar, a postgraduate student, working with the hospital.

    Osteoporosis generally sets in among women in the early 40s or during menopause. A good, regular exercise regimen during the growing years builds bones. They are built during the teen years and are maintained during the 20s and 30s. During childbirth women lose a lot of calcium that is often not replenished. By the 40s, the calcium is drawn from the bones, and they lose their strength. "As we age the bones wear out and become thin. The bones become strong and grow wide when we exercise. Then as we age the bones become thin but do not break easily," he says.

    For vitamin D to become active, it needs sunlight. A study by endocrinologists at the Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Lucknow, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in May, 2005, found that pregnant mothers and newborns in north India suffered from vitamin D deficiency because of poor diet, and social and cultural practices preventing women from being outdoors.