Build a Stronger Skeleton
To have sturdy, healthy bones, you gotta beat 'em up.
Good Vibrations continued...
At present, both American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts try
to fight bone loss with intense exercise programs. They spend four hours a day
doing high-impact, bone-building workouts, Rubin says. Still, the bone loss
Rubin thinks a healthy skeleton depends on the body's natural
vibrations, in addition to the strain placed on bone by exercise. Even when
sitting upright or standing still, your muscles are working to maintain your
posture. The muscles vibrate at 10-50 hertz, and Rubin thinks these subtle
vibrations stimulate bone growth. In space, a human body doesn't strain against
gravity to hold its posture. The muscles are relaxed, and bone is not
constantly subjected to muscular vibrations.
If Rubin is right, a vibrating platform could remove one more
obstacle to sending astronauts on a mission to Mars. What's more, vibration
might become a first-line treatment for osteoporosis, as well as a way to
prevent it. Better treatments for osteoporosis are sorely needed. DiNubile says
he worries about what will happen when today's young women go through "the
change" some 40 years from now. "They're not even close on calcium
intake," he says. What's more, teens tend be sedentary and guzzle massive
quantities of soft drinks. All things considered, it looks like an epidemic of
shattered hips may plague us mid-century.
A lot of hope was pinned on estrogen replacement therapy for
postmenopausal women, but now doctors are finding out that it's unsafe.
"They will not have that protector of bones," DiNubile says.
Rubin says he thinks vibration therapy would be the perfect
answer -- no drugs, no side effects. "It basically relies on the normal
physiology of the skeleton," he says. "What could be better?"