Study Says Hitting the Weights, Jumping, Could Help Bone Density

When people think of osteoporosis, they usually think of women, but men can get osteoporosis, too.

Osteoporosis literally means “porous bones.” Normal bones look somewhat like honeycombs. But with osteoporosis, the bones become so thin in places that even a simple stretch can result in a bone fracture.

Risk factors are smoking, drinking, having a family history of osteoporosis, and leading a sedentary lifestyle. 

Two hundred million people have osteoporosis worldwide and that number is expected to shoot up dramatically. The International Osteoporosis Foundation projects that the global incidence of hip fracture will double by 2025, and nearly triple by 2050, when it will affect more than 6 million people.

At least one study says hip fractures will increase in men by 310 percent. Hip fractures in women also are projected to rise by 240 percent.

These fractures can be fatal, so there’s a huge need for preventive strategies. One is exercise, but even active people can have low bone density, which may lead to osteoporosis.

Missourian Dean Hargett bikes more than 160 kilometers a week, but he was shocked to learn it did nothing for his bones. He found out he had low bone density. 

“It alarmed me…I don’t want to have fragile bones,” Hargett said.

A decrease in bone density could lead to osteoporosis. Pam Hinton, an associate professor at the University of Missouri, conducts research on nutrition and physical activity on bone health. She said about one in four men will have an osteoporotic-related fracture in their lifetime.

Over a 12-month period, Hinton studied how resistance and jump-training exercises affected the bone health for men ages 25 to 60. The results showed these exercises did more than just slow the rate of bone loss.

“We actually saw an increase in bone mass with either type of exercise that was a very encouraging and exciting result,” Hinton said.

The exercises decreased the level of sclerostin, a protein that slows bone growth. At the same time, it increased a hormone that promotes bone growth. 

Hargett now knows he has to do more than cycle and swim to strengthen his bones. Weightlifting is now a regular part of his exercise routine. Besides getting the right kind of exercise, getting enough vitamin D and calcium also can keep bones strong.

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