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Can exercise reverse bone loss & osteoporosis?

Updated: Sep 28, 2023

In a world of growing life expectancy, the reality of ageing doesn't have to be a decline into disability and disease.

A startling statistic reveals that 1 in 10 men over 65 will be diagnosed with osteoporosis, a condition that results in a progressive loss of bone mass. This often leads to fractures, particularly in the hip or lower spine, and the consequences can be severe. One in 15 of those hospitalised won't survive the ordeal, and almost 40% may not see the next year. But, the fascinating truth is that the key to bone health might just be movement itself.

Osteoporosis remains a leading cause of disability and early death among the elderly. Surprisingly, bone loss begins not in our golden years but in our mid-20s. The progression and speed of bone loss are significantly influenced by lifestyle factors, and one of the most potent among these is exercise.

You might be thinking, 'exercise? Really?' Absolutely.

Despite its significant health benefits, exercise remains one of the most underutilised health-boosting strategies. Although we often focus on the surface changes like weight loss or muscle toning, the real magic is happening deep within at the bone level.

Regular physical activity in childhood and adolescence significantly contributes to achieving peak bone mass and higher bone mineral density. This sets the stage for stronger bones in adulthood and reduces the risk of premature bone loss and fractures later in life. But don't despair if you weren't active in your youth; it's never too late to start.

Numerous clinical studies have shown that adults, even older ones, who start exercising can increase their bone mineral density within seven months. This is especially true when combining resistance and anaerobic training at least three times a week. Hiring a personal trainer can further enhance results, as exercising under supervision promotes bone remineralisation more than unsupervised training.

Even for those already diagnosed with osteoporosis, hope is not lost. In a 2022 study, women with osteoporosis who started exercising saw improvement in bone mineral density in critical areas, such as the lumbar spine and hip. These results are often hard to achieve even with pharmacological therapy.

The evidence is mounting, and the results are clear. Regular exercise has profound benefits for bone health and can delay or even prevent the onset of osteoporosis. Moreover, exercise habits predict overall good health, better cognitive performance, improved mood, and possibly even a longer lifespan.

However, the type of exercise performed is crucial. A combination of aerobic training, resistance training, and some mobility training is ideal for bone health. If you're a beginner, particularly if you already have some degree of bone loss, seek professional advice to prevent injuries and maximise results.

In conclusion, the power to fight osteoporosis lies within us and our ability to move. Embrace exercise as a lifestyle choice, not just for your bones, but for a healthy, vibrant, and fulfilling life. After all, age is just a number, and you have the power to redefine what your golden years look like.

 

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References

Hoffmann I, Shojaa M, Kohl M, et al. Exercise Reduces the Number of Overall and Major Osteoporotic Fractures in Adults. Does Supervision Make a Difference? Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Bone Miner Res. 2022;37(11).


Mello JB, Pedretti A, García-Hermoso A, et al. Exercise in school Physical Education increase bone mineral content and density: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur J Sport Sci. 2022;22(10):1618-1629.


Pinheiro MB, Oliveira J, Bauman et al. Evidence on physical activity and osteoporosis prevention for people aged 65+ years: a systematic review to inform the WHO guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behaviour. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2020;17(1):150.


Vilaca T, Eastell R, Schini M. Osteoporosis in men. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. 2022;10(4):273-283.


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