Bones, Balance and Cancer

With more birthdays, many women, myself included, struggle with bone loss and loss of balance.

Bone loss is often exacerbated by IV and oral drugs used to treat cancer. Although these drugs may be very effective and necessary they add a twist to the struggle for gaining and maintaining bone health.

Good balance goes hand in hand with bone health because it plays an integral part in the prevention of fractures. With less falls there is less chance of breaking bones – that isn’t rocket science!

So, what will build bone density and improve balance at the same time? According to several published works by K. Sakamoto reported on in a Denver Naturopathic newsletter, dated April 30,2008, a very simple exercise.

‘Unipedal Standing’ is the scientific term for standing on one foot. Research has shown that one-minute long intervals of unipedal standing may be helpful in preventing falls and hip fractures. K. Sakamoto and his colleagues published their work on the effect of unipedal standing as it relates to frequency of falls and hip fractures in the October 2006 issue of the Journal of Orthopedic Science. In the publication K. Sakamoto stated, “this has got to be the least expensive, least intrusive and lowest technological intervention I have ever read about for preventing hip fractures.” The ‘unipedal standing balance exercise’ as the researchers called it, simply involves standing on each leg for one minute three times a day. To help you balance, your eyes should be open while doing this. It you need a little support to keep from falling down to start with, lightly hang onto a chair back or something else that is secure.

The published work used data that was collected from 212 control subjects over a six month period. It was presumed that these control subjects rarely stood on just one foot. The control subjects recorded only 121 falls and one hip fracture while doing the exercise for the study.

From an abstract of the study listed on PubMed, Sakamoto pointed out in another published work in the December 2006 issue of Clinical Calcium that “unipedal standing increases the weight load on the femoral head by a factor of 2.75 over standing on two legs, something I guess would be called bipedal standing”.

Since bone density and bone strength is improved by mild stress to the bone it is worth making a fuss about weight-bearing exercises. This the next couple of sentences should convince each of us to perform this simple exercise religiously. According to Sakamoto’s calculations unipedal standing for just one minute would have an effect on bone density equivalent to walking 53 minutes. That means that if you repeat the exercise three times a day you will get the effect of walking more than 2 1/2 hours per day – in only 6 minutes of actual exercise!

Unipedal standing also appears to decrease spontaneous falls by about one-third because of improved balance. Additionally, the mild strain to the bone seems, at least in theory, to decrease the chance of fracture if a person does fall.

I recently received a diagnosis of osteopenia and I intend to do everything possible to keep it from progressing to osteoporosis. A few minutes each day standing one foot may produce some additional bone mass…and, I for one, am ready to give it a try. An added benefit will be de-stressing for a few minutes…yea!