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Research Night: Osteoporosis with Tessa

Tessa VanDerVeeken, a master’s student representing Dr. Patricia Doyle-Baker for the Faculty of Kinesiology, displayed an informative and very important poster on the effects of rowing on osteoporosis and bone density at the BSA/WISE Research Night this past November. Women with a mean age of 55 years old who had experienced at least 3 months of rowing were used for this question-based study. These women were asked about their diet, exercise, and lifestyle in general as well as their knowledge on osteoporosis.

The participants identified that rowing may help to prevent osteoporosis, but they were unable to differentiate between which exercises were weight-bearing and which were not. An Osteoporosis Knowledge Assessment Test (OKAT) was used with these same participants, who showed higher scores than those questioned who did not have a background in rowing, but the correct response rate of the participants was still only 55%. Few of the participants were able to describe the risk factors of osteoporosis or preventative measures that may be taken to reduce the risk of osteoporosis. This highlights the issue at hand, that knowledge on osteoporosis is minimal, especially if athletes who are at a point in their life to be affected by osteoporosis are limited in their knowledge on the subject. To make things worse, health influencers who believe hormones found in dairy are reason enough to avoid drinking milk are spreading the wrong idea and influencing their listeners to stop drinking milk as well. This leaves their listeners especially the elderly, at risk of developing osteoporosis, as increasing and maintaining bone density is extremely important for when fractures due to falling abound in the elderly. Doctors are being discouraged from performing bone density scans because they are expensive and take a toll on the healthcare system, since there is not much benefit from them. This means the only way to determine if someone has osteoporosis is after they have fractured a bone. Quite an unfortunate situation has been created, and now the best way to deal with it is to focus on fall prevention in the elderly to help avoid the fractures in the first place.

Living in Canada limits our opportunity to receive Vitamin D from the sun, so drinking milk is an important way of obtaining the Vitamin D we need. It is especially important for teenagers and young adults to increase their bone density while possible through choosing a balanced diet with calcium and exercising regularly. It is also important to perform load-bearing activities to minimize the chances of developing low bone density. See below for some information on how much calcium you need every day for your age group:

Women who row believe that rowing helps them with their overall health, including weight control, confidence, and strength. Participating in a sport can provide the motivation needed for individuals to change their lifestyles for the better, while also protecting them from developing osteoporosis. The rowing community has allowed the women under study to participate in a community that helps them improve their lifestyle and feel better about themselves. The women involved in rowing spoke positively about the physical and mental benefits they have gained from rowing, as well as the support that the rowing community has provided them. The takeaway of this study is to participate in an activity analogous to rowing to be able to talk about and gain knowledge on issues such as osteoporosis. The most effective intervention method would be to educate and motivate individuals to change their behaviours to reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis.

Future studies that Tessa hopes to do as a PhD student include intervention trials with more personalized information on the participants. For example, pre-OKAT tests, an educational test to find out how much knowledge the participants have on osteoporosis along with their 10 risk-fracture score (FRAX) and finally a post-OKAT test will further the research on this subject.

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