If you’ve ever known anyone who has suffered a fracture due to osteoporosis, you know how devastating it can be.  So devastating that one in three men will not survive one year after a hip fracture.  That’s right, I said men.

Many people mistakenly view osteoporosis as a women’s disease.  While it is more prevalent in women (half of women over 50 will develop osteoporosis), one in four men over 50 will suffer from it as well.

First, the Bad News…

Osteoporosis occurs gradually over time.  Bones that were once strong and dense become weak, fragile and porous.  Too often, the very first ‘symptom’ is a broken bone.  While osteoporosis affects all bones in the body, fractures are most common in the wrist, hip and spine.

Why should you care about this now? Because by the time a fracture occurs, it’s much harder to turn back the clock and try to build strong bones.

Now, the Good News

Prevention is the key to healthy bones.  It’s long been known that weight-bearing exercise helps build stronger bones. Weight-bearing exercise covers most physical activity, including walking, running, stair-climbing, dancing, playing tennis and other racquet sports, and of course, weight-lifting.

What’s not included are swimming (the water bears your weight) and cycling (you’re seated). Those activities still burn calories, strengthen your heart, and improve your aerobic fitness, but you can do better when it comes to building your bones.

As even better news, new research shows that you even small amounts of exercise can make a big difference.

How It Helps

Exercise helps the bones in two ways:

  1. It lowers a protein called sclerostin.  Sclerostin makes it difficult to build new bone.
  2. It enhances IGF-1 levels (insulin-like growth factor-1).  IGF-1 promotes bone growth.

In a study to be published in October’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, researchers found that pre-menopausal women who exercised at least 2 hours per week were found to have significantly lower sclerostin levels and higher IGF-1 levels.  Further research that examines how these levels are affected in post-menopausal women and men will be interesting.

Just Do It

As children, we grew up knowing the importance of brushing our teeth. If we were ‘good,’ the Tooth Fairy would visit to reward us when we lost a tooth.  It would be fascinating if we took the same preventive approach with our bones.  The ‘Bone Fairy’ might give us a little gift if we exercised each week.

Well, the Bone Fairy is imaginary, but the benefits that you will reap from exercise are real.


Get Moving, Be Healthy, Feel Great



Originally Published in  GlobalFit‘s GO! Newsletter