Hopping for Bone Health: The Power of High Impact Activities

Although our focus at the Kahn Center is the prevention of heart disease, the integrative approach we takes strives for total body health. Bone health shares many features with heart health (exercise, healthy diet, optimal weight, limited alcohol, supplements, and good sleep to name a few). The loss of bone health also takes a tremendous burden on patients with heart disease. 

The usual advice for fitness and bone health is to pursue weight bearing exercise as opposed to swimming and biking. Beyong weight bearing, there has been evidence that "high-impact" exercises like gymnastics and box jumping preserve bone health. A study examined the simple act of hopping as a high impact exercise and the findings are quite striking. 

STUDY

The researchers investigated the effects of a high-impact exercise intervention on bone mineral density (BMD), bone mineral content (BMC), and section modulus (Z) as well as imaging biomarkers of osteoarthritis (OA) in healthy postmenopausal women.

Forty-two women aged 55 to 70 years who were at least 12 months postmenopausal were recruited. The 6-month intervention consisted of progressive, unilateral, high-impact exercise incorporating multidirectional hops on one randomly assigned exercise leg (EL) for comparison with the contralateral control leg (CL).

Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry or Dexascan (DXA) was used to measure BMD, BMC, and Z of the femoral neck. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the knee joint was used to analyze the biochemical composition of articular cartilage to be sure the hopping did not injure tissues of the knee.

Thirty-five participants (62 years) completed the intervention.

Femoral neck BMD, BMC, and Z all increased in the EL (+0.81%, +0.69%, and +3.18%, respectively) compared to decreases in the CL (−0.57%, −0.71%, and −0.75%).  

There was no indication that the intervention caused pathology progression.

CONCLUSIONS

In conclusion, a high-impact exercise intervention that requires little time, cost, or specialized equipment improved femoral neck BMD with no negative effects on knee OA imaging biomarkers.

High-impact exercise is a feasible intervention to reduce hip fracture risk in healthy postmenopausal women. Jumping up and down, hopping back and forth, and jump roping are activities that might prevent bone loss over time. 

An alternative activity that is available in some cities is a franchise called OsteoStrong that offers 4 exercise machines to apply loads on major bones to stress them without injury stimulating bone growth. 

Author
Dr. Joel Kahn

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