Exercising to strengthen bones and stave off osteoporosis-related injuries is the topic of a free Friday lecture in Central Point.

"Better Bones and Balance" is open to all ages but geared toward women and men age 50 and older. The presentation by Oregon State University associate professor Kathy Gunter promotes physical activity for older adults as approved by the American Heart Association and American College of Sports Medicine. Also planned is an overview of osteoporosis, a disease characterized by reduced bone density and propensity for fractures.

"There's two ways that we can reduce fracture," Gunter said, " ... increasing the strength of the structure, and you're minimizing the potential trauma."

Beneficial exercises largely involve body weight and gravity. Squats and lunges can be augmented with weighted vests and intensified depending on a person's physical abilities, Gunter said.

"We incorporate jumps as people increase their readiness."

The "Better Bones and Balance" program was born at OSU in 1994 as a doctorate research project that recruited 25 post-menopausal women to perform weight-bearing exercises primarily focused from their waists down.

"Over the course of a year, these women had tremendous benefits," Gunter said. "They increased balance, strength and mobility."

The women decreased their risk of falls within the yearlong study. Five years later, the women who were still exercising maintained their original bone density. Non-exercisers lost an average of 4.5 percent bone-mineral density during that time period, Gunter said.

Over the past four years, OSU faculty have trained more than 100 people in the delivery of "Better Bones and Balance," which is regularly practiced by about 300 people in Linn and Benton counties.

"Now it's this incredibly well-accepted and well-attended, community-based program," Gunter said.

Because the program has evolved, however, OSU is reevaluating it over the next year and a half to guarantee effectiveness. During that time, OSU researchers, extension faculty and community partners plan to develop a formal curriculum and marketing plan, Gunter said.

"I see it as another way of adding to our mosaic of options for women and men who want exercise to be a bigger part of their lives," said Sharon Johnson, OSU associate professor of health and human services and Extension faculty member.

"The boomer-plus generation, they want to move more."

While women typically predominate the audiences of lectures on osteoporosis, men also are at risk, Gunter said. Between 2 and 7 million men in the United States have osteoporosis. About 60 to 70 percent of bone mass in both genders is genetically predetermined rather than affected by age or disease, Gunter added.

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail slemon@mailtribune.com.