Strengthening Bones with Exercise

A free exercise program designed to prevent and help reverse the symptoms of osteoporosis through strength training, balance exercises and health education is being offered in eight locations in eastern Maine by the University of Maine Center on Aging’s Retired and Senior Volunteer Program.

The RSVP Bone Builders Osteoporosis Exercise and Prevention Program, funded by a grant from the United Way of Eastern Maine, is an evidence-based program developed by Tufts University researchers who determined that adults can improve their strength and fitness at any age.

Researchers found a low-impact weight training exercise program can improve balance, bone density and muscle strength. These improvements, along with education that focuses on diet, medications and lifestyle can also help prevent the risk of falls.

Osteoporosis is a condition in which bone density decreases, making the bones thin and brittle and easily broken or fractured. One out of every two women and one out of every four men over 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Research indicates that proper exercise can stress and stimulate bones, increasing bone density and making bones stronger.

The exercise portion of the UMaine Bone Builders class helps improve overall balance and flexibility, which leads to more confidence in walking in different environments and rebounding from falls.

Another major element of the program is the education focusing not only on diet and medications for osteoporosis, but also lifestyle, which includes how to maintain a home, reach for objects on high shelves, or get in and out of a vehicle safely to avoid falls and fractures.

The Bone Builders program offers free hour-and-a-half-long classes twice a week for six-month sessions. Classes currently are running at the Women’s Health Resource Library in Milbridge, the Ellsworth Senior Center, Island Community Center in Stonington, Parker Ridge in Blue Hill, Avalon Village in Hampden, Sunbury Village in Bangor, Brewer’s Housing Authority, and the Old Town-Orono YMCA.

Classes are limited to 15 participants, and spots are currently available at the Brewer and Hampden locations.

Those who wish to attend must register and get medical clearance from a licensed health care provider.

RSVP members who have been trained by certified health and fitness consultant Kevin Dunton lead the Bone Builders classes. There are two volunteer lay leaders per class.

The exercises in the class range from warm-up and cool-down stretches to movements using hand and ankle weights.

“The RSVP staff and lay leaders are dedicated to providing class participants with a safe and comfortable atmosphere for an exercise regimen which can be adjusted to an individual’s condition whether or not they have engaged in regular exercise over the years,” Program Director Paula Burnett says.

The Center on Aging’s RSVP is one of three national senior service corps programs sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service whose “mission is to invest the skills and life experiences to make a difference for generations in Eastern Maine through volunteer service,” Burnett says.

For more information on how to participate or serve as a volunteer lay leader, call Paula Burnett, 207.262.7926.