Researchers now know more about how exercise affects bone composition. New studies indicates that the frequency of exercise can affect whether or not stem cells, located in your bone marrow, become bone cells or fat cells. This means that if you exercise frequently you can positively affect the quality, density and strength of your bones.
Researchers are also finding that frequent movement throughout your day (and conversely, avoiding extended sedentary periods) can have significant health benefits.
Further, the younger you start exercising, the better for your bones.
This is the third in a series of articles I have identified as the most important osteoporosis articles.
How Exercise Affects Bone Composition
A study published at the end of 2010 indicated that the amount of bone marrow fat is inversely related to the amount of cortical bone (the good hard bone that resists fracture) in the femur. This relationship appeared to hold true regardless of age – some research subjects were in their 20s while others were in their 50s.
A different research project led by Dr. Janet Rubin, a professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina, has shown that mice who were exposed to mechanical stimulation (much like the forces on bone caused by walking) developed more bone cells than mice who were idle.
Frequency of Exercise Has Its Benefits for Your Bones (and Your Muscles)
Exposing the mice to two bouts of mechanical stimulation had a greater effect than just one long bout of exercise. Allowing a three-hour rest, compared to a one hour rest, between mechanical bouts of stimulation had a stronger effect on stimulating the cells to convert into bone rather than fat cells. Frequency of stimulation was a more powerful stimulant than load or time.
According to Dr. Rubin: “If you don’t want fatty bone marrow and unhealthy bones, consider breaking up moderate-intensity workouts into several sessions interspersed throughout the day.”
Apparently, the same rule applies to muscles and your overall health. Research is showing that frequent workouts or activity throughout the day is much more beneficial to you than sitting idle at a computer screen and having one long workout.
These research results are quite compelling – at least for the researchers. Like Dr. Rubin, I have modified my exercise routine so that I works out more frequently. Instead of working out once a day for one hour, I go out for a morning run or brisk walk. Later in the day, I do a 30 minute strength training or TaiChi and Yoga routine.
Why Are These Studies Important to You?
- If you want strong bones that resist fracture through life, you want to start young and encourage stem cells towards bone building rather than fat building.
- It appears that short bouts of exercise may be as or more important than how hard you push.
The Exercise for Better Bones Program
Since frequent interval workouts appear to be better than infrequent long workouts, I encourage people who have purchased my Exercise for Better Bones book and who follow the three-day a week schedule, that you consider doing half of your work out in the morning and the other half at night.
Those of you following the six workouts per week program might consider allowing 3 hours or more between doing your strength routine and your cardio/weight bearing routine.