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Mild Exercise Not Enough
to Strengthen Bones
Excerpt By Merritt McKinney, Reuter's Health

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Even mild physical activity, such as walking, gardening and working around the house, can help keep the heart healthy, but such activities do little to make bones stronger, according to a new study.

"Although some activity may be better than none at all for certain aspects of health, like heart health, milder forms of activity may not be sufficient to hold off or attenuate the age-related decline in bone with aging," said lead author Dr. Kerry J. Stewart of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. "More vigorous exercise may be needed," he told Reuters Health.

Although mild activity and aerobic fitness did not seem to affect bone density in the study, having greater muscle strength and carrying extra pounds around the middle were related to stronger bones, according to a report on the findings that is published in November issue of the Journal of Internal Medicine.

Despite the apparent link between abdominal obesity and stronger bones, the study does not give the green light to pig out, Stewart cautioned.

"Although being fat may be good for bone density, gaining weight is not the answer because of the harmful effects of obesity on many other aspects of health," he said.

Stewart's team studied 38 men and 46 women who were generally healthy, although their blood pressure was at the high end of the normal range or mildly high. None of the participants exercised regularly.

In the study, neither overall aerobic fitness nor participation in mild physical activity had a significant effect on bone mineral density. But muscle strength as well as extra fat in the abdomen were associated with denser bones.

"We found that being more fat and having stronger muscle, which is common in fatter people, along with hormone replacement therapy, had the most influence on bone," Stewart said. "In particular, having more abdominal fat was most strongly linked to bone density."

The study did not look at how carrying around extra pounds may boost bone density, but Stewart suggested that the hormone leptin may be involved. Leptin levels tend to be higher in fatter people, he explained, and animal studies have shown that leptin increases the activity of bone cells.

SOURCE: Journal of Internal Medicine 2002;252:1-8.


Reference Source 89

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