Some people might find the commercial in which a woman cries, “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” amusing.
But the thought of breaking a bone and being unable to save oneself is a plausible horror to millions of women age 65 and older.
In the five to seven years following menopause, a woman can lose up to 20 percent of her bone density, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
A graduate student from Middle Tennessee State University is conducting research to find out if sedentary behaviors have an impact on bone health in older women.
Saori Ishikawa is a doctoral candidate in the health and human performance department. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tsukuba in Tsukuba, Japan, and a master’s degree from Bridgewater State University in Bridgewater, Mass.
“My study is an intervention where I communicate with the participants for one month and measure their activity level and sedentary behavior at the beginning and at the end of the study,” Ishikawa said.
She will need 40 postmenopausal women age 65 or older for the first phase of the study.
In that time period, Ishikawa will perform a bone scan and monitor the participants’ activity.
In the second phase, some 30 participants will get personal coaching to help them reduce their sedentary behavior.
Some study subjects who take part in the first phase might also be eligible for the second phase.
All participants in the study should be able to walk with or without the use of assistance devices.
What does Ishikawa hope to learn?
Well, research to date tends to show that physical activity is an indicator of bone health in teenagers.
She wants to know if lack of physical activity is an indicator of bone health in older women.
Women tend to reach peak bone mass around age 30, Ishikawa said.
From that point, it remains steady until the change of life, when it plummets.
Ishikawa said she wants to know what specific sedentary behaviors the women engage in most, including lying down to watch TV or use electronic devices, work-related sitting and sitting not related to work.
However, it is not necessarily her goal to get these women to lift weights or run around the track.
Depending on what each respondent says, Ishikawa intends to suggest performing simpler activities.
Most of these are household chores that do not involve enormous exertion, such as walking a pet for an additional 10 minutes each day, washing dishes by hand or walking around while talking on the telephone.
“I’m hoping to get the message out to people that you don’t necessarily have to engage in moderate to vigorous intensity activity,” Ishikawa said. “Having a little bit of activity throughout the day may help you sustain bone health.”
Ishikawa said she developed an interest in bone health when she was active in gymnastics and became concerned about her colleagues’ fractures.
If her research is on point, Ishikawa can do more than help keep gymnasts competitive.
Potentially, she could save many, many lives.