A recent research paper looked into running and osteoporosis and addressed the question: is running good for osteoporosis? The authors’ specifically discussed the kind of load you need to build bone and addressed whether running and osteoporosis created adequate load for bone building.
Running by itself does not necessarily prevent osteoporosis and you probably need to modify your running regime to make your bones healthier.
Is Running Good for Osteoporosis?
Hi, I’m Margaret from MelioGuide, and today I’m going to cover an important question, and this was actually topic of a research paper, and that is, is running good for osteoporosis?
The authors looked at running and osteoporosis and asked is running good for osteoporosis?
I’m a big advocate of exercise but I never realized how important exercise was and how precise the prescription for exercise needs to be for running and osteoporosis.
So when it comes to something like running, running unto itself doesn’t necessarily strengthen your bones, it’s how you go about running, and how far you run, and how often you run, and the type of running that you choose to do.
And so I’m not here to discourage you from running, by all means, I’m not here to discourage you from walking. The more exercise you do, the better. However, instead of taking that, you know, 10-mile run or a 5-mile run, or even a 3-mile run, you might want to consider changing the run so that it works both for you cardiovascular, but also for your bones.
So what are some things that you can do?
1. Takes Rests and Run Bone-Challenging Sprints
Taking rests. So you go, “But out for a run, why would I want to take a rest?” So you want to take rests so that you can load the bones hard, and then give them some recovery time in between. You’ll see sprinters do this.
And those of you who run, you know that you would much rather go for nice leisurely 5K run than do hill sprints, but you know which one is going to be more advantageous for you, and you know which one’s a lot harder. And those hill sprints, or just sprinting, is going to be much more challenging for your bones. And that’s what your bones need. They need that constant change in stimulus.
So changing the hill that you’re running, changing the speed at which you’re running, changing the distance at which you do that sprint, all of those things are really critical. The long distance runners have been shown to actually have less bone mass than sprinters, so you want to have the, you know, the change in intensity, that change in stimuli to your bone.
Now when it comes to hills, it’s not the uphill running that actually builds your bones, it’s the downhill running that builds your bone. But having said that, downhill running is hard on your knees, it’s harder on your joints, there’s eccentric contraction of the muscles happening, so, you know, as with all of the exercise suggestions, building up to doing these things gradually is really important, because your goal is to be able to do this for life.
2. Integrate Change Into Your Running Protocol
And so the last thing you want to do is to, you know, oh all of a sudden you’re going on from flats to running downhills, walking up, running down, you know, you’re going to get some sort of injury. And so gradually integrate change in your running protocol that you currently have.
If you’re currently walking, add changes to your walks: walking faster, adding maybe some, you know, jumps to your walks, adding some little sprints, some hills, you know, making those muscles that are pulling on your bone work, and work hard.
We know that despite pharmaceuticals and good nutrition, you can only build 30% to 50% of your bone potential without exercise. And so exercise hard so that all of the other activities through a nutrition, and whether or not you have had to use pharmaceuticals, are there to support the health of your bones.
Thank you for tuning in, I’m Margaret from MelioGuide.
Osteoporosis and Running Drills
Exercises need to be either strength building or weight bearing to build bone. Running drills and jogging are cardiovascular activities that are weight bearing.
Running and Osteoporosis
Why shouldn’t someone at a high risk of fracture run or jog? I generally find that most of my clients have better alignment through their spine when they walk as compared to when they run. Also, you gain as much bone building benefit from a brisk walk as you do from a run. So my recommendation is to stick with a brisk walk.
A couple more things you should keep in mind when it comes to running or brisk walking:
- Your bones respond much more to a short brisk walk/run than a longer walk or run. Run as though you are trying to compete in a 5 K and not the marathon.
- Running, brisk walking and walking benefit your hip bones but do little for the spine. Supplement your exercise program with weight bearing activities that target the spine. Check out my Exercise for Better Bones program for a comprehensive set of exercises designed for your fracture risk and activity level.
Prevent Osteoporosis by Modifying Your Run
If you are still committed to your running and osteoporosis consider some modifications and drills that can incorporated into your runs to make them more effective.
I encourage my clients who are at a low to moderate risk of fracture to modify their running style to add more impact to their jogs. In this video, there are three techniques that they can add to increase the impact (and the fun!):
- High knees.
Each of these has been used by athletes to improve running performance and can be adopted by everyday athletes to make their runs more effective when it comes to weight bearing and building bone. Weight bearing exercise recommendations are a major component of the MelioGuide Exercise for Better Bones program.
Prescription for Weight Bearing Exercise
Rather than hitting the trail for twenty minutes and doing a steady jog, I am suggesting that you mix in these drills. If you are a regular runner, consider this your new prescription for weight bearing exercise!
- High Knees – As shown in the video, you elevate your knees up as you perform several strides in a row. This drill increases the amount of impact as your feet hit the ground. I find that they also feel great when you do them.
- Skipping – Skipping adds a nice explosive component.
- Bounding – Bounding involves extending your stride and taking a leap forward. It can be done continuously (say, five to six steps in a row) or you can mix in a single bound every few minutes.
Balance, Running and Osteoporosis
You want to make sure that you have good balance before you take on these drills. Balance is a critical part of your exercise program.
Once you are comfortable that you can perform these weight bearing drills, I encourage you to mix them into your run.
For more information, check out my Osteoporosis Guidelines.
Boudenot A, et al, Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2015 Dec;40(12):1309-12. doi: 10.1139/apnm-2015-0265. Epub 2015 Sep 28