University of Missouri researchers have demonstrated that age related bone loss in middle aged men can be reversed with exercise. Osteoporosis affects nearly 2 million men in the U.S. and 16 million have low bone mass.
The study participants consisted of 38 physically active, middle-aged men who completed either a weight-lifting program or a jumping program for a year for 60-120 minutes of targeted exercises each week. The particpants’ bone mass was measured at the beginning of the study and again at six and 12 months using specialized X-ray scans of the whole body, hip and lumbar spine. The participants took calcium and vitamin D supplements throughout their training programs.
“Weight-lifting programs exist to increase muscular strength, but less research has examined what happens to bones during these types of exercises,” said Pam Hinton, an associate professor and the director of nutritional sciences graduate studies in the MU Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology. “Our study is the first to show that exercise-based interventions work to increase bone density in middle-aged men with low bone mass who are otherwise healthy. These exercises could be prescribed to reverse bone loss associated with aging.”
The research findings demonstrated that bone mass of the whole body and lumbar spine significantly increased after six months of completing the weight-lifting or jumping programs, and this increase was maintained at 12 months; with minimal rated pain and fatigue after completing their exercises. Hip-bone density only increased among those who completed the weight-lifting program.
“Only the bone experiencing the mechanical load is going to get stronger, so we specifically chose exercises that would load the hip and the spine, which is why we had participants do squats, deadlifts, lunges and the overhead press,” Hinton said. “Also, the intensity of the loading needs to increase over time to build strength. Both of the training programs gradually increased in intensity, and our participants also had rest weeks. Bones need to rest to continue to maximize the response.”
“Individuals don’t typically have to know they have heart disease, high blood pressure or prediabetes to start exercising – they do it as prevention,” Hinton said. “Similarly, individuals don’t have to know they have osteoporosis to start lifting weights. The interventions we studied are effective, safe and take 60-120 minutes per week to complete, which is feasible for most people. Also, the exercises can be done at home and require minimal exercise equipment, which adds to the ease of implementing and continuing these interventions.”
Pamela S. Hinton, Peggy Nigh, John Thyfault. Effectiveness of resistance training or jumping-exercise to increase bone mineral density in men with low bone mass: A 12-month randomized, clinical trial. Bone, 2015; 79: 203 DOI: 10.1016/j.bone.2015.06.008