Running and bone health
It’s well known that exercise is an accessible form of medicine for all. Exercise such as running is beneficial for overall health, specifically;
- Helping lower cholesterol levels
- Fighting depression
- Achieving weight loss
- Reducing stress
- Boosting your immune system
- Improving overall mood
However, less well known is the positive impact exercise has on bone health, or more specifically in helping to reduce a condition called ‘osteoporosis’, a condition leading to weak bones.
Why should we care about weak bones?
The simple answer? Because they are more likely to break especially as we grow older.
Did you know that in the UK roughly 500,000 fractures every year occur due to a condition known as osteoporosis according to NHS England?Osteoporosis is a major public health concern; affecting 200 million people worldwide and 3 million people in the UK1.
Meaning “porous bone” this health condition occurs when the body either loses too much bone density, makes too little of it or both. Though losing bone mass is a normal part of aging, it usually occurs overs years and the body can easily restore the bone. However, when bone loss is accelerated, or the body is unable to restore the loss adequately, this increases the bone’s fragility and risk of breaking2.
But there is good news!
Research3 shows that regular resistance weight-training or weight-bearing aerobic exercise such as jogging, stair-climbing and tai-chi helps to increase bone density in osteoporotic patients. This may be beneficial in preventing osteoporosis and other bone-related issues as we get older.
Note: While walking has been shown to not increase bone density it has been shown to limit its progressive loss.
So how does running help my bones?
Loads such as running or weight lifting triggers the bone to grow and adapt to tolerate the weight being placed on them. This is known as Wolff’s Law4, and ultimately means the best way to protect your bones from conditions such as osteoporosis is to get out and use them!
Please remember that while the information in this article has been written to help you better understand the impact exercise can have on bone health it should not replace medical diagnosis. If you have prolonged and sustained symptoms or a specifical pathology (diagnosis) then it is recommended you see a medical professional regarding how best to manage your symptoms if you wish to begin running.
Written By: Olivia Bates (BSc Sports Therapy)
- Clynes, M. A., Harvey, N. C., Curtis, E. M., Fuggle, N. R., Dennison, E. M., & Cooper, C. (2020). The Epidemiology of Osteoporosis. British Medical Bulletin
- Mullender, M.G., & Huiskes, R. (1995). Proposal for the Regulatory Mechanism of Wolff’s law. Journal of Orthopaedic Research
- Benedetti, M. G., Furlini, G., Zati, A., & Letizia Mauro, G. (2018). The Effectiveness of Physical Exercise on Bone Density in Osteoporotic Patients. BioMed Research International