Explore Magazine Volume 2 Issue 1


Weight Lifting Helps Offset Post-Surgery Bone Loss

UF researchers have found a simple, yet effective solution to the potentially back-breaking problems of osteopenia and osteoporosis.

How effective? Just ask heart transplant patient Robert Lewis, who travels 200 miles round trip one day each week to work out at a special gym on the University of Florida campus.

``I have no limit to the walking I can do now, whereas I was very limited before.'' Lewis said.

The 61-year-old Eustis resident, who underwent a heart transplant at Shands Hospital at UF two and a half years ago, participates in a weight-lifting program designed to prevent osteoporosis, which commonly occurs as a side effect of the medication taken to prevent rejection of the transplanted organ.

Almost 100 percent of the people who undergo heart transplants develop osteopenia, or weakening of the bones, and one half of these people will develop osteoporosis, a disease that can cause spontaneous fractures.

But UF researchers have found weight lifting can prevent these problems.

``It's well known that people who engage in weight-lifting exercises have very thick, strong bones,'' said Randy Braith, an exercise physiologist with UF's Center for Exercise Science. ``We measured bone mineral density in heart transplant patients and began a program of weight lifting after surgery to see what effect, if any, exercise might have on strengthening bones.''

What they discovered was surprising. Measurements performed after surgery on heart transplant patients from Shands showed a loss in bone mineral density of up to 25 percent during the first two months.

However, transplant patients who began strength training two months after the transplant surgery were able to restore and maintain bone mineral density to the same level it was prior to the operation, he said.

Nancy Dohn

photo by Russ Lante

University of Florida exercise physiology student Michael Godfrey ``spots'' heart transplant patient Robert Lewis at the UF Center for Exercise Science.