Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Strong Words, Strong Bones: Am I Just Dense?

I'’m ecstatic and I'm pissed at the same time.

Thanks to a great friend, I had the opportunity to have AJ's and my bone density assessed by a DXA machine today. I wanted to get a baseline on myself and on AJ--—then track her progression over the next several years as she integrates consistent resistance training into her programming. Check this link for a general explanation of the process and the numbers you are about to read: http://courses.washington.edu/bonephys/opbmd.html#tz

The T score represents the standard deviation of me compared to a normal 35 y.o. white female. The Z score is the standard deviation of me compared to women my age/sex/race. BMD is bone mineral density. I am 37 and have a mass of 62.6 kg (that'’s about 137 lbs). The "normal" healthy range T/Z score for is -.99 to +1. So theoretically, you can be -.9 and still be considered to have "“healthy"” bone density.

Total Spine BMD: 1.387 g/cm2
T score: +3.1
Z score: +3.2

Total Hip BMD: 1.291 g/cm2
T Score: +2.9
Z Score: +3.0

Total Body BMD: 1.413 g/cm2
T Score: +3.6
Z Score: +3.9

Dusting off the stats cobwebs, you'’ll recall that 3 standard deviations account for 99.73% of the data from a normal distribution. In other words, my bone density is damn good. And the raw BMD numbers are at the top end for all men and women, of any race.

Now, I've been consistently resistance training since 1998, anywhere from one to five days a week. Squat, press, push, and pull. You all know I'm a big fan of total body, multi-joint exercises. I think all people, especially women, should value and develop strength. I haven'’t always had the best diet, but for the last year I have sought out nutritional excellence, without any dairy. I get all of my calcium and protein from plant-based sources, or fortified vegan foods.

What does it all mean, Mr. Natural? It means, at least in this physical therapist'’s opinion, that the human body responds as it should to progressive, intelligently applied overload. This anecdotal case study of one clearly supports the necessity and importance of GROUND-BASED resistance training in the development of optimal, exceptional bone health.

Why am I pissed?

Well, I just got the Jay Hoffman, Ph.D book Norms for Fitness, Performance and Health in the mail today. The "norms" for womens' strength are very, very low. Not only are they low, data to establish these norms is sorely lacking. In my mind, fitness and medical professionals project a message and set the bar for womenÂ’s strength at an extremely low level. We expect women to only do 2 pull ups; we expect women to do "“modified" push ups. In my finest Meg Stone imitation, I say: "IT'S CRAP!!”

We set the bar low and what happens? Women reach for the cottage cheese and their calcium horse pill after their "brisk" 30 minute walk and PRAY their bones stay healthy. They need to reach for the BARBELL and the DUMBBELLS! They need to build strength to lift and support their bodyweight! Instead of enjoying life after 50, we have millions of women in this country facing potentially painful fractures, horrible postural pain, and years and years tethered to a toxic cocktail of bisphosphates and HRT.

Can we do better? Yes we can. We can start young women, like AJ on the road to excellent physical health by teaching them to value and participate in a GOOD resistance training program. We'll teach them to make deposits in the bone density bank from an early age.

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