CARVILLE: Beware of side effects |

CARVILLE: Beware of side effects

Phil Carville
Fitness Columnist

Serious side effects may occur including: stronger muscles, better posture, improved balance, reduced emotional and physical stress, enhanced coordination, greater flexibility and range of motion, and increased self-awareness and self-esteem.


I am talking about better bone health… and yoga. All exercise improves bone health, but today I want to give you two options to protect your bone health.

Beginning around age fifty, most of us are at risk for advanced bone loss and fractures. It is not something we ordinarily can feel or observe. Often our doctors don’t see the signs when they are treating us for other issues.

A study by the New Mexico Clinical Research and Osteoporosis Center found that “About 80 percent of hip fracture patients are not diagnosed although almost all had osteoporosis and were at risk for another hip fracture.”

Osteoporosis is not gender neutral. Of the 300,000 hip fractures each year for persons over 65, three quarters of those hospitalized were women. The medical costs for the first six months range between $38,509 to $59,054. The personal costs are even greater, 20-30 percent die within a year following a hip fracture. And, of those who survive, 50 percent will not regain pre-fracture level of function and 25 percent will require long-term care.

By the way, I did not even mention the 700,000 plus spinal fractures that occur each year.


Yes, there is some good news. There are two basic options to counter bone loss: one physical and one pharmaceutical.

First the physical: All forms of exercise help to reduce the rate of bone loss. Running, lifting weights, dumb bells, bar bells, functional training, even aquatic classes all place stress on your muscles which place stress on bones which help your body to increase bone density.

But, I want to call attention to yoga. Most exercises use gravity for the effect: lifting weights for example. This is good and beneficial. But yoga is different in that it puts more pressure on bones than gravity does in many cases. Using opposing muscle groups against one another, it stimulates osteocytes which are the bone-making cells.

A decade long Rockefeller University study has shown that for older persons attending yoga classes three times a week reduced the rate of bone loss or improved bone density. Researchers measured bone density, blood and urine chemistry and X-rayed both spines and hips. Yoga works!

Second the pharmaceutical: Consult your doctor before using any drug. But, there is some good news about bisphosphonates to treat osteoporosis. In 1995, a bisphosphonate called Fosamax (its generic name is alendronate) was introduced to slow or prevent bone loss. There were some side effects to Fosamax and your doctor can explain them to you if you have an interest. Be careful when considering the use of any drug.


Persons over 50 (especially women) should start paying attention of bone loss. One option is to consult your doctor to determine if you could use some pharmaceutical assistance.

The 100-percent safe option to begin your journey with exercise and yoga. You will feel the benefits of the poses: tree, triangle, Warrior II, side-angle, locust, bridge and all the others to improve flexibility, bone density and general health benefits. The long-term solution is to continue a yoga practice in classes with friends and new yoga friends.

Since we are talking yoga, let’s quote that famous Yogi (Berra) who said “Baseball (yoga for our purposes) is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical.”

Phil Carville is a co-owner of the South Yuba Club. He can be reached at

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