In part 1 we discussed some of the major players in bone health, including vitamin D, magnesium and calcium. In part deux, we discussed K2 and its role in helping the bones stay strong. In part 3 we now discuss exercise and its effect on the bones.Just like muscles need stimulus to grow, bones need stimulus to stay strong. Stimulus is in this case another word for load bearing exercise. The body is a marvelous adaptive machine that will change its structure as needed to cope with its environment. If little load bearing activity is done, there is little reason that the bones would need to be as dense because there is no load. Essentially your body recruits what it needs for the job. If you are moving a piano out of your house and into a new one, you’ll probably recruit some stout men with muscle to do it. But if you’re only moving a few light boxes now and again you won’t need those manly men to help. Your body is no different. If you’re not moving pianos regularly there is no reason for your body to get muscular and your bones to get stronger.
In one study, sedentary females were randomly assigned to either a training or a control group. The training group did progressive high-impact exercises 3x per week for 18 months. Bone mineral density (BMD) was measured at different sites in the lower limbs by x-ray absorptiometry. Women in the training group had increased measurements in the femoral neck, a common hip fracture site. No difference was seen at non-weightbearing sites. While this study doesn’t look directly at breaks, BMD is important to keeping the bone stronger if a fall is to occur. 1
Another study looked at the back muscle strength of elderly women aged 58-75 years old. 27 women had performed progressive resistive back-strengthening exercises for 2 years and 23 were controls. The BMD in the spine was the same after 2 years, but after the 10 year follow-up the women who had done the exercise had the higher BMD. There were a total of 14 vertebral fractures in the control group and 6 in the exercise group, a difference that was significant. 2
In a meta-analysis out of the Netherlands researchers found that in randomized controlled trials, reduction or reversal of bone mass was consistent for both the lumbar spine and femoral neck, common fracture sites. 3
Another study looking at young men 19-25 years assessed the effects of high intensity powerlifters with lower intensity “recreational trainees” and control. While the high intensity lifters experienced increases in BMD in the spine, femoral neck and trochanter, the lower intensity and control had no differences except in the trochanter region. 4 It seems that lifting in a manner that defies gravity is what really makes the bones want to get stronger. Load bearing exercise such as jogging, stair climbing, squatting and deadlifting force your skeleton against gravity. Non-load bearing exercise like swimming and cycling, while also very good at conditioning, don’t do so much for the bones in terms of density.
Good eats with the proper nutrition and good exercise with the right emphasis in load bearing types of activities are good for your bones. Staying active and proper nutrition is really important for all aspects of life though not just your bones. The nutrients we discussed in part 1 and deux are important for not just bones but other aspects of life and exercise keeps your body and your brain sane and functioning. I personally believe that the biggest obstacle for most people when it comes to lifestyle is their brains telling their bodies they can’t do something. As soon as the brain gives up the body doesn’t stand a chance. Find something fun that you enjoy doing and can do regularly and eat clean and healthy most of the time. I think a piece of cherry pie is ok once in a while, but I can count on one hand how many times a year I get it. I should probably be nicer to myself.
1. Heinonen, Ari, et al. “Randomised controlled trial of effect of high-impact exercise on selected risk factors for osteoporotic fractures.” The Lancet 348.9038 (1996): 1343-1347.
2. Sinaki, M., et al. “Stronger back muscles reduce the incidence of vertebral fractures: a prospective 10 year follow-up of postmenopausal women.” Bone 30.6 (2002): 836-841.
3. Wolff, I., et al. “The effect of exercise training programs on bone mass: a meta-analysis of published controlled trials in pre-and postmenopausal women.” Osteoporosis international 9.1 (1999): 1-12.
4. Tsuzuku, S., et al. “Effects of high versus low-intensity resistance training on bone mineral density in young males.” Calcified tissue international 68.6 (2001): 342-347.
Disclaimer: All info on this website is for education purposes only. Any dietary or lifestyle changes that readers want to make should be done with the guidance of a competent medical practitioner. The author assumes no responsibility nor liability for the use or dissemination of this information. Anyone who chooses to apply this information for their own personal use does so at their own risk.