ST. LOUIS, Missouri – Joan Mowery hits the gym twice a week.
It's all part of her recovery from a broken hip.
"I might be 79 physically, but mentally, I'm not, and you know, no, this ain't gonna stop me."
Each year, 300,000 Americans break a hip and 75% never get back to the function they had before the fracture.
"When I saw the statistics, I was horrified. I really was. 75%? That's outrageous."
But that's not the only grim statistic.
"A significant number of patients do not survive after the hip fracture," explained Dr. Ellen Binder, a geriatrician at Washington University.
"There's about a 25% mortality rate within the first year."
Dr. Ellen Binder is testing a testosterone supplement with an extended weight-lifting program to improve those odds for women.
"They are getting better and they are getting stronger."
"We demonstrated that compared to the usual kinds of exercises that patients do after they've finished their standard physical therapy that those that did intensive exercise that included weight training gained much more mobility and strength and ability to do activities of daily living." -Dr. Ellen Binder
Testosterone increases muscle and bone mass.
Women use the gel once a day and lift weights twice a week for six months.
A pilot study shows this approach improves mobility, lean body mass and strength.
"The functional aspect of this is really the muscles getting stronger," said Dr. Binder.
"The walking getting better, the balance getting better."
Joan has already seen the benefit.
"Not only am I improving on the side that was fractured, I'm improving all the way around."
She plans to join her own gym when the study is over. There's no chance she'll let herself become a statistic.
"I got too much to do. I'm not done."
The study is still recruiting patients in St. Louis, Denver, Boston, Baltimore, Galveston, and in Connecticut.
On average, most people will get about three weeks of inpatient rehab after a hip fracture, depending on their insurance, followed by a few weeks at home.
The rehab program in this study is six full months.