Specific types of exercise can help to increase bone density, according to a new study from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
In the first long-term study examining the link between exercise and bone growth, it was found that weight-bearing exercise, such as strength training or weight lifting, can prevent osteoporosis and create stronger bones in men with already low bone mass. This type of movement not only decreases the production of sclerostin, but also increases insulin-like growth factor 1, or IGF-1, within the bone.
Sclerostin is a protein found in bones that slows down or inhibits new bone formation. In cases of osteoporosis, patients are often treated clinically to decrease the production of this protein. In this study, sclerostin decreased in the men who participated in a 12-month weight training and jump training exercise program.
“We saw a decrease in the level of sclerostin in both of these exercise interventions in men,” said Pamela Hinton, associate professor of Exercise and Nutrition Physiology and author of the study. “When sclerostin is expressed at high levels, it has a negative impact on bone formation. In both resistance and jump training, the level of sclerostin in the bone goes down, which triggers bone formation.”
In addition to a decrease of sclerostin, there was also an increase in IGF-1, the previously mentioned hormone to which bone growth is attributed. The combination of decreased sclerostin and increased IGF-1 led to stronger, harder bones within the participants.
The participants in the study were men between the ages of 25 and 65 years old. These men already reported low bone mass, which can lead to an increased risk of osteoporosis. They were split into two groups. One group was given a weight training exercise program to follow for 12 months, and the other group was given a jump training exercise program to complete for the same amount of time. The weight training program included exercises such as squats with weight, and the jump training program used single and double leg jumps.
All in all, both groups showed improved levels of bone proteins and hormones in the blood. This shows that even those with low bone mass can naturally improve the density of their bones without resorting to clinical or medical methods.
“People may be physically active, and many times people know they need to exercise to prevent obesity, heart disease or diabetes,” said Hinton. “However, you also really need to do specific exercises to protect your bone health.”
Osteoporosis, meaning “porous bone,” occurs when the body loses too much bone or makes too little bone. It is a serious condition and has become quite common; an expected 61 million Americans will be diagnosed with the disease by 2020. Natural prevention is always a good choice and, when done through exercise, many other benefits can be seen as well. Living a healthy, active lifestyle is always recommended by medical professionals, regardless of risk for disease or prior health status.