Exercise Can Improve your Bone Density
As many as 44 million people in the United States suffer from the low bone mass, placing them at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis a debilitating disease characterized by weak, brittle bones that affects more than 10 million Americans. In many cases, a lack of exercise is at least partly to blame. Oftentimes, it’s wholly responsible.
Like a muscle, the bone becomes stronger when challenged. Scientists have long known that it responds to physical stress the radiating impact of a heel striking pavement, the repeated tug of a muscle contracting against resistance, the torsional force of a body winding up for a kick by reinforcing its internal structure and remodeling itself to better handle that stress when challenged. But what has bunk researchers until nowadays is the type, intensity, and duration of exercise that works best for shifting bone-building into high gear.
“We still don’t know the optimal amount of exercise for increasing bone density,” says Victoria Stiles, Ph.D. a senior lecturer in sport and health sciences at the University of Exeter, in England. “But we’ve found that it has to be intense, and we finally know the minimum dose, which can be measured in minutes.”
The Anatomy of Bone
Bone is a living tissue with a rigid, honeycomb-like structure comprised of collagen and calcium. Like every other tissue in the body, it has nerves, vessels blood, and cells, and is in a certain state of “reconstruct,” breaking down and rebuilding itself like a perpetual construction project. Indeed, about 10 percent of the average adult’s bone mass is reconstructed each year. “People tend to think that bone is a solid, fixed thing,” says Stiles. “But it is always respondents, always regenerating.”
Bone structure outpaces breakdown until once among the ages of 25 and 30, at which point the body gain peak bone mass and remodeling plateau for about a decade. “bone-strengthening exercise is important throughout the lifecycle,” says Pamela Hinton, Ph.D., an associate professor in the department of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri. “But by periods of skeletal growth, exercise is especially useful at increasing bone mass and power.”
Never too late to start exercising to preserve bone density, and once you do, it’s not something you ever want to stop.
How Exercise Strengthens Bones
For exercise to affect bone consistency, it needs to be a high influence and weight-bearing. That’s why activities like running, basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, soccer, tennis, weightlifting, and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can have a profound effect on bone formation — they increase the load on your skeleton, oppression them to adapt so that they can better undergo the strain imposed by those activities. It’s also why activities like walking, swimming, and stationary cycling, while workable for weight loss and ameliorative cardiovascular fitness, have minimal impact on bone health. Being non-weight-bearing, they don’t increase the load on your bones, and thus don’t provide enough stress to cause an uptick in reconstructing.
The Importance of Nutrition
Proper nutrition plays a key role in the recovery process as well. But it’s not just about consuming the recommended 1,000mg of calcium per day or getting enough of the vitamins and nutrients that help you store it (such as vitamin D, potassium, and manganese) you also have to make sure you’re consuming enough total daily calories, according to a review in the journal Current Sports Medicine Reports. The researchers found that some runners’ bone density is no greater than that of people who don’t exercise at all, and one of the primary reasons is that many runners don’t take in sufficient calorie to meet their energy needs.
Another reason is the repetitive nature of distance running, according to the researchers. “When you do a lot of steady-state exercises it becomes a bit like white noise to bone cells — they become desensitized to the constant stimulation and basically switch off,” says Stiles. “Brief bursts of severe exercise seem to work best for prosperous bone density.”