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Category: Bone Health

Zinc Levels Tied to Osteoarthritis

Zinc Levels Tied to Osteoarthritis

We’ve all heard that calcium is crucial for preventing bone and joint problems, but new research suggests there may be another mineral we need to be mindful of: zinc. In particular, a study suggests that levels of zinc within the cartilage cells may help to explain why tissue destruction occurs in patients with osteoarthritis.

Arthritis is a leading cause of disability in the world, affecting 52.5 million adults in the US alone. Despite the prevalence of osteoarthritis, there are currently no cures to stop the progression of cartilage destruction that takes place in individuals with the condition. Researchers are still attempting to understand what happens at a molecular level to cause the tissue degradation.

Osteoarthritis results in the break down of cartilage between the bones, causing joint stiffness and swelling. Tissue destruction is caused by proteins called matrix-degrading enzymes, which are produced by cells within the cartilage. Matrix-degrading enzymes need zinc to survive, which led researchers to hypothesize that zinc levels play an important role in osteoarthritis.

Using lab mice, the researchers found that a protein called ZIP8 is responsible for transporting zinc within the cells, setting off a chain of events that eventually results in cartilage destruction. Their findings suggest that treatments to deplete zinc in the cartilage cells or inhibit this ZIP8 function may help to stop osteoarthritis. If the research is confirmed in future studies, keeping zinc levels in check could become an integral part of osteoarthritis treatment.

Many patients with osteoarthritis find that it can be successfully managed by a conservative, multimodal treatment, including exercise, nutrition, and chiropractic care. Research suggests that a combination of chiropractic and exercise can significantly ease symptoms in patients with osteoarthritis in the knees, hip, and hands.

Article was written by Marissa Luck and is shared from www.chironexus.net

 

References

Zinc may be missing link for osteoarthritis therapies. Medical News Today. February 17, 2014. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/272658.php.

Cell, Kim et al. Regulation of the catabolic cascade in osteoarthritis by the zinc axis.

Want Stronger Bones? Weight Training Can Help!

Want Stronger Bones? Weight Training Can Help!

health club: guy in a gym doing weight lifting

As we age, we normally lose a certain amount of bone density. This is a particular problem for postmenopausal women due to the loss of estrogen, which protects against bone loss. Although men are less likely to suffer from osteoporosis (because their bones are generally larger and more dense), they can also be subject to bone loss if they do not get a sufficient amount of exercise. So what can be done to avoid it? Along with a healthy diet, studies have shown that weight-bearing exercise can help to maintain bone density as we age.

Professor of exercise science at California Lutheran University, Dr. Steven Hawkins, says “Exercise stimulates bone formation, because bone put under moderate stress responds by building density, and, depending on your age and workout regimen, it can either increase or maintain bone-mass density.”

Weight training (also referred to as strength training) increases bone mass, particularly that of the spine. A study performed by researchers at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, showed that postmenopausal women who do not participate in strength training lose bone mass. However, those women who participated in a year-long strength training program increased their spinal bone mass by nine percent.

Strength training does not mean you have to go to the gym every day and train to Olympian standards. It only requires regularly performing a variety of simple, weight-bearing exercises. Much as a muscle becomes larger and stronger the more you use it, bones become stronger and denser the more stress that is placed upon them.

Gary Null, in his book Power Aging notes “Weight lifting, including curls and bench presses, is a beneficial activity.” And for those who’d rather not spend any time around a gym, “Dancing, stair-climbing and brisk walking are all weight-bearing exercises, which promote (good) mechanical stress in the skeletal system, contributing to the placement of calcium in bones.” But what about aerobic exercises? While they are very good for your cardiovascular system, Aerobic exercises such as biking, rowing and swimming do not strengthen the bones” as they do not place enough stress on the skeletal system to stimulate bone growth.

You only need about 15-30 minutes of weight training two or three times a week to help maintain your bone density. You can use weight machines at the gym, or consider attaching some light weights to your arms and legs as you do a regular workout to increase the stress on your skeletal system. Even gardening can be a good way to help preserve bone mass, as it involves such bone-strengthening activities as pulling weeds, pushing a lawnmower or wheelbarrow, turning over soil, etc. Even something as simple as carrying groceries to and from the car can help.

So consider adding a little weight training to your daily routine so you can maintain your bone health and (with a bit of luck) remain fracture-free far into your later years.

If you need more ideas on how to improve your bone health, be sure to schedule an appointment with Dr. Oblander by calling our office at 406-652-3553!

 

Spinal Anatomy 101

Spinal Anatomy 101

vertebrae-model-200-300 “Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where you backbone ought to be.”

-Clementine Paddleford, American Writer (1898 – 1967)

It’s no accident that so many philosophers and writers have used the backbone as a metaphor for discipline, force of will or character.  Your spine (or “backbone”) is the primary physical support for your body’s entire frame.  It’s a remarkable piece of natural engineering composed of 33 separate vertebrae that act as a single unit to provide stability as well as flexibility while you’re sitting, standing or in motion.  A healthy spine is both strong and resilient.  With proper nutrition, exercise, postural habits and chiropractic care, it can allow us to lead an active lifestyle well into old age.  However, poor biomechanics, injury and disease can cause problems with the spine that result in misalignment, inflammation, pain and restricted movement.

The spine develops from infancy into adulthood, gradually evolving from a C-shape, which is suitable for crawling, to its distinctive S-shape, which is the appropriate shape for two-legged walking.  The natural curves in the spine serve to cushion impact from movement, absorb shock, preserve balance, and allow range of motion.  The three main curves in the spine are known as the cervical curve (the neck region), the thoracic curve (the upper back) and the lumbar curve (the lower back).

There are 7 cervical vertebrae, 12 thoracic, 5 lumbar, 5 sacral and 4 coccygeal vertebrae.  The sacral and coccygeal vertebrae are those located lowest in the spine, below the area of the lumbar curve.  Twenty-four of the vertebrae in your spine are moveable. They are cushioned by intervertebral discs which act like coiled springs. These discs are fluid filled and—as we age—become thinner and more brittle, often causing us to get shorter.  Over time (or as a result of excessive wear and tear or specific injury), they can degenerate, bulge or herniate, potentially causing significant pain and loss of mobility.

There are several other common spinal disorders.  Lordosis, also known as “sway back,” occurs when there is abnormal forward curvature of the lumbar spine.  Those who have abnormal curvature of the thoracic curve have kyphosis, or “hunchback.”  Scoliosis occurs when there is a side-to-side curvature in the spine. Slight curves of less than 20 degrees do not usually present health or problems and are seldom treated.  Moderate or severe curves usually require treatment because they can interfere with the functioning of internal organs and may significantly limit physical activity.

While the bones and connective tissues of the spine are very good at what they do, they cannot support the body’s weight and facilitate movement on their own.  They need the help of strong core muscles.  Good muscle tone is important to help maintain proper posture and spinal alignment.  This is why it’s so important for us to put effort into maintaining proper posture when we sit, stand, lie, walk and run.  Over time, poor posture can place unnatural stresses on the musculoskeletal system (especially the spine), limiting our range of motion and producing pain.

In addition to its role in supporting the body’s frame and facilitating movement, the spine has another important role as well.  The spine’s bony vertebrae also encase and protect the spinal cord, which is connected directly to the brainstem.  It’s hard to exaggerate how important this protection is.  Damage to the spinal cord can cause numbness and loss of motor function.  Injury to the cervical area can cause tetraplegia (also known as quadriplegia), while injury to the thoracic or lumbar area may result in paraplegia, or loss of the use of the legs and trunk.

This article serves as a brief introduction to just one aspect of your anatomy.  If you are in the Billings area and need a Billings Chiropractor and you have any questions about your spinal health or your musculoskeletal health more generally, please don’t hesitate to call us at Oblander Chiropractic or visit our office (406-652-3553).  We’re here to help!

Use it or Lose it: Five Tips for Maintaining Your Sense of Balance Beyond Middle Age

Use it or Lose it: Five Tips for Maintaining Your Sense of Balance Beyond Middle Age

yoga on the natureIf you are middle-aged (40-60, by some definitions) or older, here’s 15-second self-test for you. Do you often find yourself needing to sit down or steady yourself against a table when putting on your shoes or stepping into pants? Do you increasingly need to use the armrests of your chair to “push off” when getting up? Do you generally hold on to handrails whenever you go up and down stairs? If you stand with your feet close together, do you feel unsteady and unable to balance yourself properly?

If you’ve answered “Yes” to any of these questions, you might want to start giving a little bit of thought to your sense of balance, and how important it is to you. It’s easy to take good balance for granted—most people don’t give it a first or second thought until after they’ve experienced a fall. However, the behaviors we asked about in our self-test are actually “early warning signs” that your sense of balance may be starting to deteriorate. Your balance is controlled by an area of the brain called the cerebellum, which works in coordination with your vestibular (inner ear) system, your visual system (your eyes, and their ability to perceive whether you are standing upright), and your proprioceptive system (your body’s sense of position in space).

All of these systems begin to deteriorate once you pass the age of 40, as do the muscles they control. Worse still, this process of deterioration can become accelerated if you lead a sedentary lifestyle (which growing numbers of Americans do). And although you might not think of balance as a health issue, falling is the leading cause of injury for people over the age of 65. In the U.S., someone from this age group is treated in an emergency room for injuries resulting from a fall every 17 seconds.

So how do you improve your sense of balance, and protect yourself from dangerous falls? Simple—use it! Balance is to some extent a learned skill, so if you practice a few simple exercises that isolate these components of balance, you can actually make your sense of balance better. Experts on aging suggest performing a few exercises to improve your balance each day, starting in middle age, before the systems that control your balance have begun to deteriorate.

For example, just avoiding the use of handrails on stairs or the poles in buses and subway cars forces your body to work harder to maintain its balance, improving reflexes, increasing coordination and strengthening your muscles. Other exercises you can perform include creating an unstable surface at home (such as a board placed on wobbly pillows) and then practicing standing on it with one foot, or improving your coordination by standing on one leg with the opposite arm extended and then swinging the other leg back and forth. Office workers can improve their balance—and get a refreshing break at the same time—by practicing getting up from their chairs ten times in a row without using their hands. Each of these simple movements shifts your center of gravity, causes your muscles to react to changing positions, and improves your balance.

Just walking in a small circle around your living room or your backyard can be good for your balance, because walking along a curve is more difficult than walking in a straight line. When you’re out for a walk, try to choose uneven surfaces rather than smooth pavement because this also exercises the muscles in your back and legs that are essential for good balance. Or place cones or other objects in a line on the floor in front of you and then weave between them while walking. You can strengthen your hips, which are very important for balance, by holding on to a table or a kitchen counter and then swinging one leg forward, to the side, to the back, and then up to your chest with your knee bent. Do this ten times, and then switch to the other leg and repeat. Yoga, Tai Chi, martial arts, and other forms of exercise that emphasize flexibility can also improve your balance.

So if you are concerned about protecting yourself against falls as you age, the important thing to bear in mind is the phrase “use it while you’re young, or you’ll lose it as you age.” The more healthy exercise you get in your 30s and 40s, the more healthy – and safe – you’ll be in your 60s and beyond.

 

Good Posture: The “800-Pound Gorilla” of Health and Wellness

Good Posture: The “800-Pound Gorilla” of Health and Wellness

gorilla
gorilla

Good posture isn’t exactly a high priority for many Americans. For millions of us, the number-one priority is working to provide for our families—and sitting all day at a desk is how we achieve that. However, poor posture while sitting at work for many hours every day can actually lead to poor posture while standing the rest of the time—and that’s a more serious problem than one might think.

A Wall Street Journal article entitled “How Bad Sitting Posture at Work Leads to Bad Standing Posture All the Time” talks at length about this phenomenon.  Allston Stubbs, an orthopedic surgeon at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center who treats patients with back or joint pain, puts it this way: “[Posture] is probably the 800-pound gorilla when it comes to health and wellness…  We see the spine and overall skeletal structure being critical to a patient’s functionality and their satisfaction with their life and health care.”

This means that many Americans’ habit of sitting all day with no thought to their posture has severe consequences—without good posture, many people can develop serious neck, shoulder, and back pain, leading to a sharp decline in their quality of life. Sitting all day with poor posture can lead to muscular back pain, herniated discs, and even pinched back nerves.

Poor sitting posture can also cause tension headaches, diminished breathing, and fatigue. It can even make you look older, according to the LA Sentinel. “Never underestimate the beauty and health benefits of good posture. Often poor posture is just a bad habit that is easily corrected. Poor posture not only makes you look older, but could be the first step toward dowager’s hump, double chin, potbelly, and swayback as well as some internal problems too. When a person is hunched over or not standing straight, that person may be perceived as older than they actually are. Good posture is not only beneficial to your body; it also makes you look taller and slimmer. What’s more, good posture can convey self-confidence, which may just be the best accessory you can have.”

Additionally, good posture is essential for a healthy spine. It can reduce or eliminate back (and shoulder and neck) pain, and it can even improve your mood.

However, there are millions of people today who simply have not learned what good posture is—and it’s not standing rigid, with shoulders thrown back, as many may have learned in childhood. Rather, as the WSJ articles says, “Good posture doesn’t just mean standing with the shoulders thrown back. More important is maintaining good alignment, with ears over the shoulders, shoulders over hips, and hips over the knees and ankles. Body weight should be distributed evenly between the feet.”

While workplace-related posture problems are getting a lot of attention in the media these days, the importance of good sitting posture to office workers’ health is hardly news to the U.S. government. The United States’ Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) offers a number of tips for good sitting posture, including keeping your head in line with your torso as well as keeping your elbows close to your body and your thighs and hips parallel to the floor. OSHA also recommends using a well-padded seat, keeping your shoulders relaxed, and making sure your forearms, wrists and hands are straight and well-aligned.

 

Want to Upgrade Your Running Routine? Try Cross-Country

Want to Upgrade Your Running Routine? Try Cross-Country

Running
running-shoe-close-up

For many running enthusiasts, it is essential to keep improving the workout technique and to keep things interesting. One way of doing this is it to try out different surfaces such as the treadmill, the street, and the track. However, new information is coming to light about the best way to upgrade your running routine: running cross-country on a trail. Why is trail running so beneficial for runners?

  • Running on trails is better for your body. A trail’s surface is much more forgiving on your joints—the stress of impact is significantly mitigated, making the trail a better place to run, physiologically speaking. Many runners suffer from knee pain, shin splints, ITB syndrome, or other injuries caused by running on a hard surface that puts a lot of pressure on the joints. For these people, trail running can be a life-changer. Trail running is also purported to help prevent most forms of tendonitis (unless you suffer from Achilles tendonitis, in which case, running on a harder surface may actually be better for you).
  •  Trail running works more muscles than hard-surface running does. Trail running involves literally watching your step—roots, rocks, and other small obstructions will compel trail runners to jump, hop, and move around the trail while staying balanced, which uses a wider range of muscles than one would use on, say, a treadmill. In addition, because the trail is softer than paved surfaces, your step depresses a bit each time your foot hits the grounds, requir­ing you to lift your leg and use more mus­cle each time you take a stride.
  •  Trail running requires intense focus. Trail runners not only get a full-body workout, but they also use their powers of concentration much more than treadmill runners. Trail runners find this type of mental workout exhilarating and energizing—and it may even help improve your concentration and memory on a day-to-day basis.
  •  Running in a natural setting is beneficial to your mental health. According to com, “An arti­cle pub­lished by Har­vard Med­ical School states this: ‘Researchers at the Uni­ver­sity of Essex in Eng­land are advanc­ing the notion that exer­cis­ing in the pres­ence of nature has added ben­e­fit, par­tic­u­larly for men­tal health. Their inves­ti­ga­tions into “green exer­cise,” as they are call­ing it, dove­tails with research show­ing ben­e­fits from liv­ing in prox­im­ity to green, open spaces. In 2010 the Eng­lish sci­en­tists reported results from a meta-analysis of their own stud­ies that showed just five min­utes of green exer­cise resulted in improve­ments in self-esteem and mood.’ ”

For trail running beginners, it is important to follow some basic tips, such as:

  • Obtaining the right kind of running shoes for trail running. Use the shoes you feel the most comfortable in. Do a little research if you don’t know exactly what you need.
  • Bringing water. You won’t be finding any drinking fountains out in the woods, so plan ahead and stay hydrated.
  •  Giving yourself plenty of time to complete your run. Don’t push too hard in the beginning—that’s an easy way to burn yourself out on what could be a beloved and effective full-body workout.
  • Maintaining focus. It is essential that you pay close attention to the trail. Remember—you’re not on a smooth treadmill or a predictable, engineered running surface; you’re in the middle of the woods on a trail with rocks and roots. If you lose focus, you may end up inuring yourself, and you truly do not want to be out in the middle of nowhere with a twisted or broken ankle. If you feel like your concentration is beginning to wane, slow down or take a break until you get your focus back.
Top Foods for Healthy Bones

Top Foods for Healthy Bones

Still life of variety of Healthy Foods
Still life of variety of Healthy Foods

Strong bones are essential for healthy living, but there’s no guarantee that any of us will have them as we grow up and grow older. While we don’t think about it very much unless something goes wrong, we need to do our part to develop and protect our bones. Proper nutrition is part of that.

Your skeleton is a living organ that needs nutrients in order to rebuild bone in areas where it is continually being broken down. Osteoporosis, a condition in which bones lose mass and density and are at greater risk for fractures, occurs in 55% of Americans over 50. Millions of fractures occur every year as a result of poor bone health.

The most common osteoporosis-related bone fractures among the elderly affect the hips, vertebrae, wrists and ribs. Vertebral fractures are the most common, and occur most often in women. You may see an elderly woman with hunched shoulders, head propped forward and unable to stand straight, because a few of her vertebrae have essentially collapsed. This condition is sometimes called “dowager’s hump”.

How do we prevent this from happening to us? In addition to regular weight-bearing exercise, diet can make a big difference. Here are some bone-friendly foods you can add to your diet to help keep your bones strong:

Seeds—Though we usually think of bones as being made of calcium, they also consist of other elements. For instance, half of the body’s magnesium is found in the bones. A great source of magnesium is seeds, particularly pumpkin seeds. Brazil nuts are also rich in magnesium.

Nuts—Walnuts are rich in alpha linolenic acid, which helps to keep bones building up instead of breaking down.

Leafy greens—Leafy greens (particularly the dark green kind), provide a host of nutrients and vitamins, including magnesium, calcium and vitamin K. Vitamin K helps to cut calcium loss in urine and is essential in building new bone matter to replace old.

Beans—Pinto beans, kidney beans, black beans and white beans all contain magnesium and even a little calcium. Beans not only help your bones, they help prevent obesity, heart disease and cancer.

Sardines—Canned sardines contain a substantial amount of calcium. A 3 oz. can typically contains 320 mg of calcium.

Swiss cheese—One ounce usually contains 270 mg of calcium.

Dried plums (Prunes)—Dried plums are a reliable source of dietary fiber, phenols and vitamin K. They’ve been shown to suppress the rate of bone resorption, or the breakdown of bone.

Besides eating well, it’s very important to remember to exercise. In fact, one of the greatest health risks faced by astronauts when they go into orbit is bone loss. Bones deteriorate more quickly in zero gravity unless exercise is included in the daily routine. The same idea applies here on earth. Stressing bones with physical activity (particularly weight-bearing exercise and exercise that involve some type of impact, such as running) seems to trigger bone-building activity and prevents the body from using bone-building nutrients for other things.

 

Building Better Bones for the Long Run

Building Better Bones for the Long Run

senior-man-working-dumbells
senior-man-working-dumbells

When it comes to leading a healthy, active lifestyle in middle age and beyond, maintaining your bone density (also called “bone mass”) is very important. To really understand the challenges associated with this—and to appreciate the opportunities—it’s necessary to know a little bit about how your skeleton grows and develops over the years.

Your bones are actually a lot more active than most people realize. Even if you’re an adult, somewhere between 7% and 10% of the cells in your bones are replaced during any given year. This means that your entire skeleton will be replaced in about a decade. The bones in the human body are constantly being broken down, reabsorbed and rebuilt, with those experiencing the most daily wear-and-tear being rebuilt the most frequently. This is referred to as “remodeling” or “bone turnover.”

Even though your bones stop growing in length in early adulthood, they can continue to grow in diameter throughout your life in response to activity. When this happens, special cells called osteoblasts form compact bone around the outside of the bone surface while other cells called osteoclasts break down and reabsorb older bone tissue from the internal bone surface. These two processes work together to increase the diameter of the bone while preventing it from becoming too thick and heavy.

Girls achieve up to 90% of their peak bone mass (the amount of bone tissue in the skeleton) by their 18th birthday. Boys hit that same milestone by the time they’re about 20 years old. Bone mass can keep growing until around age 30 for both men and women. After this point, bone mass tends to remain stable for a number of decades as bone building activities remain roughly in balance with bone resorption activities. However, this balance begins to change and bone mass begins to decline when you reach more advanced years. For women, this drop in bone density is closely related to menopause.

There are essentially three things you can do to maintain healthy bone mass:

  1. Stimulate as much bone growth as possible while you are still young. Timing counts—the higher your peak bone mass is when you hit your early 20s and 30s, the more bone loss you can experience later in life without the risk of osteopenia or osteoporosis. We recognize that, for many readers, this bit of information will come too late. We include it here for the benefit of parents who are still in a position to help their children.
  2. Eat a bone-healthy diet. Calcium, vitamin K and vitamin D are the keys, but vitamin A, vitamin B12 and vitamin C matter too!

    Calcium is integral to maintaining bone strength. Dark green, leafy vegetables are the single best source of this mineral. Ounce for ounce, they’re even better than dairy products (which are also good). So the key to feeding your bones is to incorporate more spinach, collard greens, broccoli and bok choy into your diet in addition to dairy (milk, yogurt and cheese). Tofu is often fortified with calcium as well, so a quick stir-fry including tofu, bok choy and sesame seeds (another great source of calcium) makes an excellent bone-healthy meal.

    Vitamin K is key to the production of osteocalcin, a bone protein. Vitamin K is needed to bind calcium to the bones and reduces the amount of calcium that is excreted in the urine. It has been shown to promote higher bone density and reduce the risk of fractures. Fortunately, the same dark green, leafy vegetables that are chock full of calcium are also a great source of vitamin K.

    Vitamin D is critical for calcium absorption. However, many experts believe that most Americans may be vitamin D deficient, particularly during the winter months when days are short and there is little sunlight. However, the general trends toward less outdoor activity at other times of the year and more sunscreen use may increase the risk of year-round vitamin D deficiency. According to Dr. Michael Holick, a leading vitamin D expert, “We want everyone to be above 30 nanograms per milliliter,” Holick says, “but currently in the United States, Caucasians average 18 to 22 nanograms and African-Americans average 13 to 15 nanograms.” This is perhaps the best argument for vitamin D-enriched milk and supplementation.

  3. Weight-bearing exercise stimulates bone formation and lowers the rate of calcium loss. You can help to increase your bone density at any age by practicing weight-bearing exercise three times per week for 20 to 30 minutes. This can include activities such as lifting weights, walking or running, dancing, playing tennis, climbing stairs, or jumping rope. Remember—even if you get bone-friendly vitamins and minerals, you will still lose bone mass more quickly if you are a couch potato.

    Gary Null, in his book Power Aging notes “Weight lifting, including curls and bench presses, is a beneficial activity.” And for those who’d rather not visit the health club, “Dancing, stair-climbing and brisk walking are all weight-bearing exercises, which promote (good) mechanical stress in the skeletal system, contributing to the placement of calcium in bones.” But what about aerobic exercises? While they are very good for your cardiovascular system, “aerobic exercises such as biking, rowing and swimming do not strengthen the bones.” They simply don’t place enough stress on the skeletal system to stimulate bone growth.

Beyond their role in giving your body its shape as well as supporting and moving it, the bones that make up your skeleton do a number of other really important things that are less obvious:

  • They provide protection for your body’s vital organs.
  • They are where your red blood cells and lymphocytes are produced (within your bone marrow).
  • They store important minerals, including calcium and iron, and are involved in metabolizing them.
  • They help regulate your body’s endocrine system (including regulation of blood sugar and storing fat).

Be good to your bones and they’ll be good to you!

Have any questions? If so, please call or visit our office today!

 

Additional Resources

To Ensure Bone Health, Start Early. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/05/to-ensure-bone-health-start-early/

Bone Health: Tips to Keep Your Bones Healthy. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/adult-health/in-depth/bone-health/art-20045060

Maintaining Bone Health: Why Bone Health is Important. http://nihseniorhealth.gov/falls/bonehealth/01.html

Exercise and Physical Activity. http://www.americanbonehealth.org/what-you-should-know/exercise

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