Exercise Boosts Bone Health in Women

It's well-known that exercise can be protective against osteoporosis, and recent research helps to explain why. Women who engaged in regular physical activity showed signs of improved bone health, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

To determine the effects of exercise on bone health, researchers measured levels of two different proteins involved in bone formation. The first, serum-insulin-like growth factor-1, is a protein associated with increased bone growth. The second, sclerostin, is an indicator of decreased bone formation.

Researchers found that exercise led to increased levels of the growth protein and dramatic drops in the protein associated with decreased bone formation. These improvements were more pronounced in women who exercised for 120 minutes a week compared to women with only 30 minutes of weekly physical activity.

In a follow-up study, researchers recruited 160 women between the ages of 30-42 years who had low levels of activity and were not on a special diet of any kind. Half of the women were enrolled an 8-week exercise program, and the other half continued their sedentary lifestyle. Again, levels of the serum-insulin-like growth factor increased in women who exercised while sclerostin levels decreased. Active women also showed signs of increased bone mineral density in the lumbar spine and neck femur. The more women exercised, the more improvements they experienced in terms of bone health.

As exercise places increased mechanical requirements on the body, bones are able to adapt through a process of reforming and growth, researchers pointed out. That could bolster the bones against the weakening and degeneration associated with aging, osteoporosis, and osteoarthritis.

But girls don't have to wait until their thirties to start thinking about osteoporosis prevention. Recent research shows that jump rope and other loading activities can improve bone health in children.


Ardawi MSM, et al. Physical activity in relation to serum sclerostin, insulin-like growth factor-1, and bone turnover markers in health premenopausal women: a cross-sectional and longitudinal study. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 2012; 97(10): DOI: 10.1210/jc.2011-3361.

Petrochko, Cole. Exercise is good for women's bones. MedPage Today. August 18, 2012. Accessed December 10, 2012. http://www.medpagetoday.com/Orthopedics/Orthopedics/34271.