Informational meeting on starting new class will be Thursday, Nov. 15.

When RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program) of the Red River Valley started Bone Builders with two classes in Crookston in 2007, organizers had no idea the osteoporosis prevention/reversal exercise program would be such a hit. Now, six years later, there are nearly 600 men and women participating at one of 30 sites throughout the Valley.

"It's been just a fantastic program, free to participant," said Jan Aamoth, RSVP director. "Many participants have experienced significant increases in bone density and have noted improvements in muscle strength and balance as well."

RSVP currently hosts five classes in Crookston, held at various times to accommodate different schedules, at the armory, RiverView Health, Nimens-Espegard apartments and JJ's Body Shop. All are "pretty much filled to their limit," said Aamoth. Given the high demand, the newly-opened Villa St. Vincent Wellness Center has expressed interest in starting another class session. RSVP is hosting an informational meeting regarding this class on Thursday, Nov. 15, at 2 p.m. at the Villa. Everyone is invited to attend. Contact Tammy Sykes, RSVP Program Coordinator at 281-8289 or for more information on Bone Builders.

Osteoporosis and Bone Builders
According to information provided by RSVP, as people age, osteoporosis is a major determining factor in quality of life. This is a silent disease that causes porous bones to break easily due to a loss of bone density, as evidenced by some startling statistics. The Mayo Clinic reports that 40,000 deaths each year are associated with osteoporosis, many resulting from complications associated with fractures. An estimated 1.5 million fractures per year are due to osteoporosis, costing an estimated $18 million in hospital and nursing home services. Half of all American women and a fourth of men over the age of 50 will experience an osteoporosis-related fracture in their remaining lifetime.

Bone Builders relies on weight training to protect against these types of fractures by increasing muscular strength and density. The program, developed through Extension Services nationwide, has been proven to prevent and reverse osteoporosis, improve balance, enhance energy and well being, increase socialization and provide health education.

Bone Builders uses special weights for ankles and wrists that can gradually increase the amount of weight lifted by inserting small tubes in holders. Ankle weights can go up to 10 lbs., with wrist weights ranging from 3-5 lbs., possibly more.

The classes are adapted to benefit any age and physical ability, with trained RSVP volunteers leading each class. Aamoth said the current age range in RSVP Bone Builders classes is 50 to over 90 years of age, but people who are younger can benefit as well.

Participants in the afternoon class at JJ's Body Shop, which has been going strong for five years, are very dedicated, said Aamoth. "They don't ever want to slough off. They stick to their routine during class and are really good about following through at home."

"Bone Builders is kind of like riding a bike," said Nancy Melby, one of the class's trainers. "Once you stop, you fall off."

Although Bone Builders is designed to combat osteoporosis, it can be of benefit to those suffering from other health conditions as well. A participant who is in the early stages of Parkinson's disease said the exercises have greatly increased her strength.

"I was really weak before, but it's gotten a lot better," she said.

Studies have shown that older women who participated in a weight training program twice weekly for a year gained an average of 1 percent bone density while a control group lost 2 percent or more over the same period.