A recent research paper looked into the question: does running strengthen bones? The authors’ specifically discussed the kind of load you need to build bone and addressed whether running created adequate load for bone building.
Running by itself does not necessarily strengthen your bones and you probably need to modify your running regime to make your bones healthier.
Does Running Strengthen Bones?
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, does running strengthen your bones?
And so in this paper, the authors really looked at, you know, does running strengthen your bones? And what is it that, you know, what kind of load do you need to strengthen your bone?
And so it’s very interesting, because one of the things in reading the paper… I’m a big advocate of exercise, obviously, all of you that tune in, but it never realized how important exercise was and how precise the prescription for exercise needs to be.
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.
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