Men: Keep Your Bones Running Strong

Healthnotes Newswire (April 16, 2009)—More than calcium goes into the recipe for strong bones: proper exercise is needed in the mix. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that among running, cycling, and weight training, running was the best at increasing bone mass in men.

Osteoporosis—not just for women

While most people might picture a woman when they think of osteoporosis, the disease can also affect men. Although they are less likely than women are to suffer from osteoporosis, men tend to fare worse after sustaining an osteoporosis-related fracture than women do.

Many of the risk factors for developing osteoporosis can’t be changed, like heredity, race, and body type (thinner, smaller-framed people are at higher risk). Other things can be changed, though, such as the amount of alcohol you drink (less is better), and whether or not you smoke. In addition to getting enough vitamin D and calcium, regular exercise is key to preventing osteoporosis. The amount and type of exercise for optimal bone health is still being debated, but the new study of 42 male athletes helps shed some light on why running comes out ahead.

Run for your bones

The men were between 19 and 45 years old and had performed at least six hours of cycling, running, or resistance (weight) training per week for the last two years. Blood markers of bone health and bone scans were done to determine their bone density and the rate of bone formation in their bodies.

Resistance training and running both increased bone mass in the men compared with cycling, with running leading the pack for the most positive effects on bone density. “From a practical perspective, the results of the present study support the exercise prescription of weight-bearing endurance exercise, activities that involve jumping, and resistance exercise that targets all major muscle groups for preservation of bone mass,” the authors commented. “Individuals whose primary mode of exercise is not weight-bearing, such as cycling, swimming, or rowing, should be encouraged to add bone-strengthening activities such as resistance training or running to their training regimens.”

Eat right for your bones

Good nutrition helps bones to form right and to stay healthy throughout life. Keep these tips in mind when eating for healthy bones:

Limit caffeine—Opt for caffeine-free or lower caff beverages to prevent calcium from leaching from your bones.

Switch up the calcium—Dairy isn’t the only place you can get bone-healthy calcium. Try adding some extra bok choy, almonds, tofu, and broccoli to up your dairy-free calcium quotient.

Go easy on the white stuff—Try some fresh lemon or lime juice in place of some of the salt in your favorite dishes and give your bones a break on calcium loss.

Get your D—Vitamin D aids in calcium absorption. As little as 10 minutes, three times per week of partial body sun exposure in the late spring–summer–early fall months can boost your sunshine vitamin stores. The American Academy of Dermatology advises in favor of using supplements rather than sun to boost vitamin D levels, partly to avoid unnecessarily increasing skin cancer risk.

(J Strength Cond Res 2009;23:427–35)

Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She cofounded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI, and now sees patients in East Greenwich and Wakefield. Inspired by her passion for healthful eating and her own young daughters, Dr. Beauchamp is currently writing a book about optimizing children’s health through better nutrition.

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