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Hopping for Strong Bones

Although it’s the Christmas season, the title is not Shopping for Strong Bones. It is actual hopping, of the jumping-up-and-down variety. With or without a mini-trampoline (great fun, by the way, and readily available online).

Exercise researchers are spending more time these days determining which forms of exercise actually produce specific health benefits. Several weeks ago I wrote about the findings that exercise didn’t help with weight loss unless you cut calories, too.

Cardiovascular fitness? The numerous cardio exercises include aerobics, jogging, biking, treadmills, swimming, ellipiticals, and StairMasters. Bear in mind, however, that as you get especially good at one of these–as your body adapts to the challenge–the exercise loses its benefits and you should switch to another. If you’ve even switched from, say, swimming to a StairMaster, you’ll see what I mean.

Preventing osteoporosis has been a real challenge. Click here to read a nice overview on strengthening bones.

Re osteoporosis, women routinely puzzle over a phrase they hear from both doctors and trainers: Get plenty of weight-bearing exercise. You’d think the ubiquitous presence of gravity would make virtually every exercise a weight-bearing one, but that’s not the case. Swimming, for example, isn’t a weight-bearing exercise and indeed competitive swimmers who limit their exercise to the pool actually have a higher rate of osteopenia (early osteoporosis) and osteoporosis than non-swimmers. Same goes for long-distance bicycling, another non weight-bearing exercise.

You do bear your full weight when you walk, and walking can prevent osteoporosis, but you need to walk briskly and seriously, not the stop-and-smell-the-flowers-as-you-cogitate-your-place-in-the-universe variety. Jogging helps some people build bone, but not others, and recent studies about long-term knee damage from jogging after age 50 might cool your interest. Weight lifting–especially the resistance type from hand weights or that row of Nautilus variants–proved disappointing to researchers when it came to preventing osteoporosis, though it’s a worthwhile work-out for many other reasons

Researchers are now finding that to stimulate healthy bone growth, you need to challenge the bones themselves. Not just weight-bearing exercise, but weight-bearing plus. Jump up and land on your feet. That’s it: up into the air, land, and up again. Yes, hopping for healthy bones. Jumping rope works well too.

Sports science researchers in Malaysia trained mice to perform daily hopping exercises and after six months of relatively short sessions (40 jumps per day), the results were very impressive. All measurements of bone strength in the hoppers were superior when compared with the non-hoppers. Do the bone-building results of hopping mice necessarily translate to humans? No, but there’s no reason to wait. Hopping is fun and easy and can be done anywhere–office, hotel room, park–for free, with no equipment needed.

So if you’re game to avoid the various osteoporosis drugs the pharmaceutical industry has waiting for you, get up and start hopping right now. Turn on some music and hop to the beat. Imagine the hopping mice and smile.

Leave a Comment

  1. Mary Hall says:

    Any tips for fibro patients? Running a half block to the train results in major shin and foot pain–hopping just sounds too painful to contemplate. Any ideas for weight bearing low-impact alternatives?

  2. Dr. R says:

    Start by walking regularly. This will begin to condition your leg muscles and joints. Eventually walking more quickly and even short runs and/or hops will become easier. Good luck.

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