Looking into keeping muscles and bones strong for seniors

By Dale Johnson Posted: May 12, 2016 6:00 a.m.

Dr. Darren Candow is in the midst of a five year study looking into how aging affects muscles and bones.
Dr. Darren Candow is in the midst of a five year study looking into how aging affects muscles and bones. U of R Photography.

A University of Regina professor is determining whether exercise alone, or in combination with creatine supplementation, may counteract muscle and bone loss which typically occurs during aging.

Dr. Darren Candow, a professor and associate dean of Graduate Studies and Research with the Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies at the University of Regina, is conducting the research, along with his co-investigator, Dr. Phil Chilibeck, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan's College of Kinesiology.

“Regarding muscle and bone health, I hear so many people say ‘I’m too old to do that’ or ‘I can’t do the things like I used to.’ I’m very interested in preserving the precious muscle and bone tissue that we have, so we can live independently as we age,” explains Candow.

Their research is funded by Canadian Institutes of Health Research, which allows them to run what are called ”randomized controlled trials,” are the highest-quality trials for determining the benefits of treatments such as exercise or nutritional supplements on bone health.

They are now in the third year of a five-year study in the amount of $578,455 and the results will be available in 2018.

“These results will lay the foundation for a subsequent grant application to CIHR to examine these and other possible interventions in the frail elderly,” says Candow.

A leading cause of disability in Canada's aging population, osteoporosis is a progressive bone disease characterized by the loss of bone mass and density.

It can increase the risk of fracture and, as a result, leave people prone to injuries if they fall. Injuries can be so severe that an individual can lose their autonomy.

The overall yearly cost to the Canadian health care system of treating osteoporosis and the fractures it causes was over $2.3 billion in 2010.
This cost includes acute care costs, outpatient care, prescription drugs and indirect costs.

Although pumping iron is not usually an image associated with senior citizens, it may become more popular in light of this research.

If a person increases muscle mass and strength, they can exert more force on bones, because muscles are attached to bones. The greater amount of loading we expose our bones to, the more we can stimulate bone formation to make our bones stronger.

Both Candow and  Chilibeck  believe that improving muscle and bone health will be very beneficial for seniors, increasing their ability to perform daily activities and enjoy a better quality of life, while reducing the costs to the health care system.