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After a density scan showed severe bone loss, Donna Schofield searched for ways to strengthen her bones… and was astonished when resistance band pants not only helped but actually reversed her condition!
“You have osteoporosis,” the doctor told Donna Schofield over the phone. What? No! the Cohoes, New York, 68-year-old gasped in shock. While she had let her bone density scans lapse a little, at her last scan, Donna had been told she had the bones of a 30-year-old — and felt confident nothing had changed. After all, she did Zumba regularly and never had an ache or pain. She’d been so sure her doctor had been calling to tell her everything was fine.
Listening as he suggested she start taking medication, Donna grew afraid, worried about the potential side effects. “I don’t want to go on medication right away,” she told him, saying she’d heard that resistance training could build bone density and strength.
“It might help,” he acknowledged.
Hopeful, along with regular Zumba classes, Donna started using the weight machines at the gym and doing some core exercises. But then her gym closed during the pandemic. She was able to keep up with Zumba on video at home, but she knew that wasn’t enough — it hadn’t kept her from developing osteoporosis in the first place.
There must be something else I can do, Donna thought. Not long after, on Facebook, she saw an ad for pants that have resistance bands built right in, so they increase the intensity of each movement. Maybe these could help me, she mused, and decided to check them out online.
A Unique Solution
The pants, made by Agogie ($129, Agogie.com), had good reviews, but they were way too expensive for Donna. Disappointed, she told her daughter about her diagnosis and the resistance pants, and to Donna’s delight, her daughter bought them as a surprise for her birthday.
Donna loved that she didn’t have to do anything special to benefit from wearing the pants. The built-in bands — which come in two levels of resistance — run down the inside of the pant legs and add effort to every move. Donna noticed they engaged her hamstrings, hip flexors, back and core to strengthen her muscles, which in turn put stress on bones, stimulating bone growth.
After the first time she wore the pants to do Zumba, Donna’s legs felt like jelly. I definitely got more of a workout than I usually do! she realized.
Donna found the pants comfortable, and since they looked like regular black leggings, she also started to wear them around the house and while running errands. Soon, her legs no longer felt wobbly when she took them off. My muscles are getting stronger, she realized.
But even more exciting, six months after she started wearing the pants, Donna had another bone density scan. Afterward, the doctor called her and said, “I don’t know what you’re doing, but you no longer have osteoporosis! ” Her condition had improved to mild osteopenia, a much less severe form of bone loss.
Elated, Donna has continued wearing her resistance pants. “I am confident my osteopenia will go away too,” she says. “Who would have thought a pair of pants could actually reverse osteoporosis? It’s truly amazing!”
How Wearable Weights Help Build Bone
“When it comes to bone health, strength training is a must,” says Susan Brown, Ph.D., author of Better Bones, Better Body. “Resistance exercise forces the body to work against gravity, increasing physical stress to the bone.” This activates osteoblasts, a type of cell that deposits new bone material, strengthening the bone that’s being stressed.
One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to get that resistance is through wearable weights, like putting on a weighted vest (like the CAP Barbell Adjustable Weighted Vest, 20 lb., $40, Walmart) while walking, says Harvard physical therapist Terry Downey. She advises starting with the lowest weight and gradually adding more, not exceeding 10% of your body weight.
Small, light wrist and ankle weights (like Empower Ankle & Wrist Weights for Women, $30, Amazon) also strengthen bones in the arms, shoulders, legs and hips. You can even wear them while doing chores around the house. But talk to your doctor before trying these or starting any weight training, especially if you have balance issues or back, neck or joint problems.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.
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