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Better Bones means better life

Hummel's class aimed at preventing elder citizens from falling
by: VALOREE HUMMEL, Members of the Better Bones class – shown in three different photos – work out to improve their bone mass and build strength. The class, held at the Mountain Park Recreation Center, is conducted through the auspices of Portland Community College.

Valoree Hummel has discovered a wonderful way to hold off the perils of old age.

Her exercise class Better Bones and Balance, through the auspices of Portland Community College, helps build strength and bone mass, thus curtailing one of the main dangers for senior citizens: Falling and breaking bones.

'It's an amazing class,' said Hummel, who gives the class at Mountain Park Recreation Center in Lake Oswego. 'My students already notice the difference in their strength and balance. But it will take a while for them to notice something else - the increase in their bone density.'

Slim, trim and lean, Hummel is the very picture of an exercise instructor. In the past she has given classes in such exercises as Pilates and kickboxing. She has also studied exercise for many years.

So when Hummel went to Linn Benton Community College in Corvallis to find out about the Better Bones class, she really thought she had discovered something special.

It was early last summer when PCC asked Hummel to look into the class, with the prospect of adding to PCC's already strong program for senior citizens. Accompanied by friend and assistant Lisa Schwartz, Hummel was very impressed with what she found.

'Some of the students at Linn Benton were from the original class of nine years ago,' Hummel said. 'Their improvements were so evident, and they underscored what I read in the research documents from Oregon State.

'I saw the living evidence. I couldn't believe it wasn't up here.'

Hummel went about changing that situation.

'The bottom line is if my bone mass is optimized and I do trip, then I will have the strength to catch myself,' Hummel said. 'But if I do fall, then I'm less likely to have a fracture.

'If you lose bone mass, the cost medically is huge, there's potential for losing your lifestyle, and there's a high incidence of fatal occurrences.'

The set of exercises for Better Bones, prescribed by research, goes like this:

* Chair raises.

* Squats.

* Side lunges.

* Forward lunges.

* Toe raises.

Finally, there is the faux jump, in which students don't leave the ground but go up on their toes. Ultimately, there is the full jump.

Perhaps the main reason Hummel likes Better Bones so much is that it is so much better than the alternative for stopping bone loss: Pharmaceutical drugs.

'A lot of people come into my class because they want to get off of these drugs,' Hummel said. 'There has been a lot of research exposing the downsides of using them. There can be side effects like blurred vision, and the drugs stay in your body for seven to nine years.

'Given time this exercise class will build back bone mass. Drugs will not build new mass.'

The large number of people again signing up for Hummel's class gave her assurance that she is on the right track. The class has no age limit. Hummel's oldest student is 95 years old - it's her mother.

The next 10-week session for Better Bones and Balance begins on Monday. For more information call PCC at 503-978-5205 or go to www.pcc.edu/communityed.

Mountain Park Recreation Center is located at 2 Mt. Jefferson Terrace in Lake Oswego.