Hey, Ladies: Exercise for Bone Strength, Not Just Weight Loss

by Ashley Alexander on January 26, 2012

As obesity continues to plague Americans, exercising for weight loss seems to be at the forefront of education, news, and entertainment.  But exercise has benefits far beyond just losing weight, including research supporting its potential to ward off osteoporosis.  A recent study in Sweden confirms that high-impact exercise can improve bone density in younger women, giving them better protection against developing fractures as they age.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons. Photo by Mike Baird (http://bairdphotos.com).

Osteoporosis, a disease characterized by thinning of the bone, appears most often among women over age 50.  Weakening of the bones increases the risk for fractures, which can be especially dangerous at older ages.  It is possible to prevent bone thinning, but the steps must be taken long before the disease strikes since peak bone density is achieved by the time a woman reaches her thirties.

Many types of exercise can help shed pounds, but only weight-bearing exercise—for instance, jogging as opposed to swimming—is recommended for increasing bone density.  Weight-bearing exercise requires resistance from muscles and bones, which helps to make them stronger.  While weight-bearing exercises have been known to be the key type for developing stronger bones, the newest research suggests there may be differences even between similar activities.

By investigating the normal exercise routines of more than 1,000 25-year-old women, the study found that high-impact weight-bearing activities, particularly jogging and spinning, led to stronger bones than similar low-impact exercises like walking and regular cycling.  Researchers believe these differences occur because higher impact exercises involve more jumping and strength-training which place more resistance on the skeleton, better stimulating bone growth.  And, high-impact activities are typically more vigorous, burning more calories and helping facilitate weight loss.  Win-win!

Updated 1/26/12 at 4:38pm.