This 2007 article from Medical News Today, Impact Sports Increase Bone Strength In Senior Athletes, reports on a study conducted on 298 athletes at the 2005 Senior Olympics in Pittsburgh. Findings were reported at the 74th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

The study used a health-history questionnaire and ultrasound Bone Mass Density scans to measure the athlete’s bone density and correct for statistical factors. The findings indicate that participation in impact sports such as running and basketball – as opposed to low-impact sports like cycling and swimming – are a significant factor in maintaining good bone health. Athletes ranged in age from 50 to 93.

This finding supports other studies which show that lifting heavy weights, as in Olympic-style lifting, increase bone density. Bone tissue is not static – it is living tissue that is constantly growing and resorbing into the body, even as we age.

All of this points to the need to include activities and work-out routines that apply the proper kind of stress to our bones in order to remain healthy, particularly if you engage in a sport like motocross that occasionally tosses you to the ground in an uncomplimentary fashion. So for all of you VMX enthusiasts out there, find time to hit the weight room or the basketball court on a regular basis and reduce the chances or wearing a cast for six weeks next time you take a soil sample.

097977770403mzzzzzzzMy Chicago-based friend (and high-powered consultant to captains of industry) Jim McGee recently reviewed the book Brain Rules by John Medina. It’s worth reading Jim’s review here. You wouldn’t normally see a post like this on a motorcycle blog, but one of my main interests is the fitness and health of the aging athlete (and athlete wannabes). Brain health – the ability to focus and concentrate, absorb new information, retain what we’ve learned, etc. – is critical to staying active and healthy over the long term. Too much of what we’ve accepted as natural consequences of aging are little more than a misunderstanding of how the brain works.

Medina is a molecular biologist and delves into how the biology of the brain affects our ability to function, and how many of the things we believe to be true about brain function really aren’t. Jim highlights 12 rules Medina uses to organize the story in his book:

  1. Exercise boosts brain power
  2. The human brain evolved, too
  3. Every brain is wired differently
  4. We don’t pay attention to boring things
  5. Repeat to remember
  6. Remember to repeat
  7. Sleep well, think well
  8. Stressed brains don’t learn the same way
  9. Stimulate more of the senses
  10. Vision trumps all other senses
  11. Male and female brains are different
  12. We are powerful and natural explorers

Based on Jim’s review I’m going to order this book on my next purchase from Amazon. If you, like me, are interested in maintaining a level of health that will keep you on the bike and on the track for years to come it pays to understand the lessons modern science and research can teach us about our bodies. Caring for the brain, and doing the right things to support it, are an important step in achieving that goal.

Just got back from my first full physical in a number of years. By full, I mean I had a complete blood workup, a bone scan, body fat measurement, and VO2 max stress test. The good news is I’ve stayed pretty healthy despite my pathetic exercise regimen. I have good base fitness for a guy who hasn’t exercised in five years, and most of my cardio risk factors are quite low. The bad news is that some unfortunate genetic tendencies are catching up with me.

I’m 48 years old, and like most guys my age, I carry a little too much body fat and I’m showing early signs of adult-onset diabetes. Both of these are usually corrected by taking the proper diet and exercise steps. But they do need to be corrected and monitored on a regular basis. Failure to correct them will almost certainly lead to Type II diabetes over the next 10 years, along with the accompanying cardio-pulmonary problems. Inexpensive blood tests will allow me and my doctor to monitor my progress. There is also a hormonal component to the insulin/diabetic scenario. The older I get the lower my natural hormone levels will fall, and this will also need to be monitored, as low testosterone levels are implicated in many cases of adult-onset diabetes in men.

Unlike most guys my age, I have osteopenia (early-stage bone loss) in my hips. I can thank my Mom’s side of the family for this, as osteoporosis was wide-spread through my maternal ancestry. The bone loss problem is a bit more complicated than the insulin/diabetic issue and I will write more about this in a later post. If you are nearing or past the 50-year mark you may want to have a bone scan to see where you stand and determine if you need to take corrective action. The one sure thing about VMX is that we will all eventually fall off, and breaking bones is a real bummer. Maintaining good bone health is probably the single most important thing we can do to insure a long, happy VMX career.

I guess the summary of this physical, for me, was that it was a good wake-up call to get in gear and do some things I knew I should be doing, but didn’t really have clear-cut incentives to do. And I discovered some danger areas that could grow into real disasters, given my chosen hobby, if left untreated. I hope all of you will take the time to find a good doctor who will work with you to understand your needs, monitor the right things, and help you build a regimen to stay healthy for a long time in our sport.