What Exercise Could Do for Men's Bones

Exercise in men's younger years linked with greater bone density later in life

(RxWiki News) Bone health is probably something you don't plan on worrying about until you're older. But for men, bone health later in life may have something to do with their earlier years.

A new study from the University of Missouri (UM) found that certain exercises men did when they were younger helped them build bone mass that lasted through middle age and beyond.

Pamela Hinton, PhD, an associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at UM, led this study of more than 200 men ages 30 to 65. Dr. Hinton and team looked at the relationship between bone-loading exercises when men's skeletons were growing (in adolescence and early adulthood) and bone mass in middle age.

Participants' sports and exercise histories varied, both in level and type of activity, and the amount of time they spent on them.

This study included men who currently performed high-impact exercises and/or resistance training, as well as those who regularly performed high-impact exercises in adolescence and young adulthood.

Dr. Hinton and team found that bone-loading exercises performed in adolescence and early adulthood improved these men's bone density later in life. High-impact exercises, like tennis and jogging, in particular, were tied to greater hip and lumber spine bone mineral density.

But it wasn't just men who performed these exercises in their younger years that had greater bone density. Older men who currently performed high-impact exercises also had greater bone mineral density than those who didn't.

Maintaining bone mass is often considered the best method to prevent osteoporosis, a condition that can make bones weak and more likely to break. Researchers said that the consequences of osteoporosis can be much worse for men, as they are less likely to be diagnosed and are at a greater risk dying from fractures.

"The most important take-away is that if you are healthy, it is never too late to begin high-impact activities or resistance training to improve bone mineral density," Dr. Hinton said. "While activity during skeletal growth is significant, we also saw positive associations between such physical activity and bone density at all ages. So even middle-aged men who spent their teenage years sitting on the couch could see benefits from beginning a bone-strengthening exercise program."

This study was published Feb. 11 in the American Journal of Men's Health.

The Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology Summer Research Internship, the National Institutes of Health and the University of Missouri Research Board funded this research.

No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Review Date: 
February 12, 2016