From: David A Gabel, ENN
Published May 7, 2012 11:21 AM

Load Bearing Exercise for Young Men Prevents Bone Loss in Later Years

A new study from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden suggests a new reason for young men to ditch their "couch potato" lifestyle. They say that men in their early 20s who engage in load-bearing exercise including sports such as basketball and volleyball for four hours per week are less likely to suffer from osteoporosis in old age. The hard exercise in the early years increases their bone mass and density, protecting them from bone loss later on. They concluded that the more the body moves, the more the bones are built.

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According to senior study author, Mattias Lorentzon, M.D., Ph.D., "Men who increased their load-bearing activity from age 19 to 24 not only developed more bone, but also had larger bones compared to men who were sedentary during the same period."

Osteoporosis is a disease that affects men and women, and can begin as early as age 25. Over time, bones become porous and weak and can begin to fracture by age 50. This makes it vital to build up the bone mass early in life.

The type of exercise recommended for increasing bone mass is termed "load bearing". This includes sports that involve jumping and fast starts and stops which increase the load put on the bones. Basketball and volleyball were found to be the best for building bone mass, followed by soccer and tennis. These activities force the body to form new bone tissue.

Non-load bearing exercises do not put increased load on the bones. These include activities such as swimming and bicycling. They do not increase bone mass, but are excellent for fitness and provide other health benefits.

To conduct the study, Lorentzon and his colleagues followed 833 men over a five year period. At the start, they evaluated men between age 18-20. They recorded each individual’s bone mass and collected data on their exercise habits. They were evaluated again after five years for their activity levels and bone mass.

There was a significant difference between those who did greater load bearing exercise and those who did less. For example, those who did load bearing exercise for four hours a week or more increased their hip bone density by 1.3 percent. Those who did not had a decrease in 2.1 percent. This is very worrisome because hip fractures later in life can lead to serious disability and complications.

This study has been published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research

Basketball player image via Shutterstock

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