PUMPING IRONY: Good Vibrations

When you get to be my age, it’s natural to want to gain a little edge here and there against the inevitable forces of physical and mental decline.

That’s not to say that I’m a fan of Big Pharma ads for the latest miracle drug, but I do find myself intrigued by bits and pieces of research showing that some random bit of behavior may improve my chances to arrive someday at a happy old age.

So, I was intrigued today when I stumbled upon news of a study out of the Medical College of Georgia that suggests that a person of my vintage might maintain his bone density by simply employing a regular dose of vibration alongside his tibia, femur and other vital skeletal features.

This, of course, immediately makes me start humming an old Beach Boys tune, but that shouldn’t negate the impact of this particular study, published in the current issue of the journal Bone. Weak bones, you’ve probably heard, break when you fall on them or whack them against something. It’s a real issue for older folks — especially those who apparently aren’t getting their recommended daily amount of ngngngngngngngngngn.

MCG researchers treated 18-month-old male mice (equivalent to 55- to 65-year-old guys) to 30-minute vibratory sessions for 12 weeks and found that the regimen “improved density around the hip joint with a shift toward higher density in the femur, the long bone of the leg, as well.” The study also noted an increase in bone formation among the lucky rodents.

It turns out that this vibrational approach has been around since the 19th century and has resurfaced now in gyms and rehab clinics as a viable treatment option — particularly for people with limited mobility.

Here’s how it works:

The scientists theorize that the rhythmic movement, which produces a sensation similar to that of a vibrating cell phone but on a larger scale, exercises cells so they work better. Vibration prompts movement of the cell nucleus, which is suspended by numerous threadlike fibers called filaments. . . . All the movement releases transcription factors that spur new osteoblasts, the cells that make bone. With age, the balance of bone production and destruction – by osteoclasts – tips to the loss side.”

This is great news for bone-density-craving seniors with really large cell phones they can set to the vibrate mode — especially those who have friends who will call them repeatedly throughout the day while they’re watching game shows.

For the rest of us, there’s always exercise.

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