Running may be Superior For Strong Bones

A new study from University of Missouri shows that running may be superior to resistance exercises for preventing bone loss that can lead to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis, from decreased bone mineral density (BMD), is a public health concern that affects millions people – including men.

Resistance training is currently recommended to help men prevent bone loss, but studies have been conflicting. The current study suggests that high impact activities may be better for maintaining strong bones, compared to resistance exercise.

Pam Hinton, associate professor in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology in the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences says, “The results of the study confirm that both resistance training and high-impact endurance activities increase bone mineral density. However, high-impact sports, like running, appear to have a greater beneficial effect.”

According to Hinton, exercises that stress the skeletal system helps maintain strong bones, by maintaining bone mineral density. “For example, performing upper body resistance exercises will not increase bone mineral density of the hips. The response of bone to loading is determined by the magnitude of the force, and the rate and direction(s) at which it is applied. Therefore, high-impact, dynamic, multi-directional activities, including structured jump-training (plyometrics), result in greater gains in bone strength. Playing basketball, volleyball, or soccer are also good options.”

The researchers studied men, age 19 to 45. They compared the effects of running, cycling, and resistance training on BMD. Bone mineral density tests measure how strong our bones are, and whether or not we are at risk for fractures and other disabilities, especially with aging.

The researchers found that runners had greater spine bone mineral density, compared to cyclists, after adjusting for lean body mass. Running had no effect on bone density in lean runners, but cycling and resistance exercises were associated with BMD. “…high-impact activity may override the benefits of lean body mass on BMD”, Hinton said.

Loss of bone mineral density can result in osteoporosis, placing us at risk for fractures, and other disabilities. The research shows that running may be superior for maintaining strong bones, when compared to resistance exercise.

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