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Exercise builds strong bones, too

Posted by bmagnus On February - 5 - 2010

There’s good news for women at risk for osteoporosis, a disease of decreased bone density. Researchers have discovered a way to both increase bone mineral density and reduce the risk of falls that might break bones! Better yet, it involves no pills, no injections, no other medication that can interact with other drugs, and to top off all the other benefits, it’s inexpensive. You’ve probably guessed by now that this miracle medical breakthrough is none other than our old friend and nemesis, exercise.

Last year’s meta-study showed that participation in exercise programs designed for the elderly did reduce the possibility of falls. The thinking at the time was that “Exercise may help to prevent falls by improving strength, flexibility, balance, and endurance.” It had already been known that exercise can make young bones stronger, but the new research is exciting because it shows that the bone itself got more dense in elderly women, which implies that it also got stronger.

Study participants were assigned to either an 18 month “wellness” program which “emphasized well-being with a low-intensity, low-frequency program,” or an 18 month “multipurpose exercise program emphasizing exercise intensity.” The women in the exercise group ended not only with higher bone mineral density, but better fitness levels and lower fall risks. While there was no change in heart disease risk between the two groups, both did improve from initial levels. And one more thing the researchers point out: both programs cost about the same to implement. This has important implications for facilities that serve large numbers of elderly clients.

The take away lesson is simple: regular exercise at an appropriate intensity does build more dense, stronger bones.

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