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Odd exercises good for osteoporosis

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: A bone density test showed that I have osteopenia. When I looked on the Internet, I found information that said walking would have no effect on osteoporosis or osteopenia. It said odd-impact exercises would be beneficial. What in the world are odd-impact exercises? I go to the gym three days a week, doing some cardio, light weightlifting and using the ball and strengthening bands. - L.H.

ANSWER: Osteopenia is not osteoporosis, but it's only one short step away from it.

Odd-impact exercises are ones that have an effect on the entire circumference of bones. They incorporate motions in many directions to achieve that effect. For example, walking forward, backward and sideward is odd-impact exercise. Soccer, tennis, handball, racquetball and step aerobics are considered odd-impact sports activities.

Weight-bearing exercise has long been advocated for building strong bones. Walking is a weight-bearing exercise. Your bones are supporting your body weight. Keep walking. Keep doing your cardio (heart) exercises. I'm sure weight-bearing takes place in many of those exercises.

Resistance exercises (the use of weights - barbells and dumbbells) are a definite plus for building stronger bones. So are exercises employing strengthening bands.

You're doing fine with what you are presently doing.

Mixed-loading exercise - the combination of various exercises like jogging, walking and stair-climbing - is another exercise said to get the entire bone involved and often is recommended for bone strengthening.

Don't neglect taking calcium and vitamin D.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My son suffered a tear of the medial collateral ligament of his left knee while playing football. He's pretty much over it now, but I wonder about next year. He insists on playing again, and the doctor said he could. I wonder if he should wear a knee brace. What are your thoughts? - G.G.

ANSWER: The medial collateral ligament is a strong band of tissue that spans the distance between the lower part of the thigh bone to the upper part of the lower leg bone. It's in close approximation to the knee. With its counterpart, the lateral collateral ligament, it keeps the knee aligned. Both ligaments, on either side of the knee, are about 3 inches long.

A tear of the medial collateral ligament is a common football injury. It usually develops from force on the leg coming from the side.

Small tears of this ligament heal in about 10 days. Larger ones take a full month or more.

The question of bracing to prevent a recurrence has conflicting answers. Out of four large studies, one showed that braces diminish the number of repeat ligament injuries. Two state that there was no difference in recurrence between brace-wearers and nonwearers. And the fourth one suggested that brace-wearing increased the number of repeat tears.

It seems to me they are protective. If your son were my son, I would want him to wear a knee brace from this point on when playing football.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Please write about curvature of the spine. I am an 84-year-old man. I go to the YMCA and work out there. Will my condition continue to get worse regardless of the Y routine? - G.W.

ANSWER: Scoliosis is the official name for curvature of the spine. The spine curves to the right or to the left either in the upper or lower back. Often, such a curve causes inequality of leg length. One shoulder can be higher than the other.

After maturity, curves less than 30 degrees do not usually progress. I can't believe that you have a curve greater than 30 degrees, or it would have bothered you before now. I also can't believe that your workout will worsen your curve.

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from .