Vigorous Exercise May
Slow Women's Bone Loss
Women who run, jump and pump iron after
menopause may ward off bone loss, back pain and high cholesterol,
a recent study released suggests.
Researchers in Germany found that
a supervised exercise program that included running, aerobics,
jumping and strength training helped prevent bone loss among postmenopausal
women over a two-year period.
Compared with non-exercisers, women
in the program reported less back pain and had lower cholesterol
levels, according to findings published in the May 24th issue
of Archives of Internal Medicine.
The study's lead author, Dr. Wolfgang
Kemmler of the University of Erlangen, pointed out that the study
focused on women who had recently gone through menopause, a time
when bone loss accelerates and heart disease risk rises due to
declining estrogen levels.
Experts know exercise can cut the
risk of both cardiovascular disease and the brittle-bone disease
osteoporosis, but different types and intensities of activity
may be necessary. While moderate exercise like walking can be
enough to improve fitness and general health, it may take higher-impact
activity that puts some stress on the bones to make a difference
in bone density.
Kemmler told Reuters Health his
team's exercise plan had a "multiple-purpose strategy" aimed primarily
at preventing bone loss, and also boosting cardiovascular fitness
and quality of life.
The study included 50 women between
the ages of 48 and 60 who took part in the exercise program, and
33 women the same age who were told to follow their usual lifestyle
habits. All of the women were showing some bone-density decline
in the spine or hip, and all were given calcium and vitamin D
to help slow their bone loss.
Women in the exercise group went
through a supervised program that grew in intensity over time
and eventually got them running, performing jumping exercises
and strength training with weights, machines and other equipment.
They exercised four times a week, with half the time spent in
group classes, the other half at home.
After two years, Kemmler's team
found that the exercisers showed improved endurance and strength,
while their bone density remained largely stable, and even increased
in the spine. In contrast, women in the comparison group remained
at the same level of fitness and showed further bone loss.
In addition, women in the exercise
group saw a dip in blood fats, including total cholesterol and
triglycerides, while these levels tended to go up in the comparison
group. Back-pain complaints also declined in the exercise group.
This latter finding, Kemmler and
his colleagues note, shows that, despite the fact that high-impact
exercise carries a risk of causing low-back pain, a "carefully
increased exercise regimen" can actually help ease the problem.
Kemmler stressed the importance
of progressing toward intense exercise such as jumping. "During
the first months of our study the exercise regime was increased
slowly," he said, noting that high-impact activities did not begin
until the fifth month to reduce the risk of injury.
He advised that postmenopausal
women who want to ramp up their activity levels should first consult
their doctors, then take part in supervised programs or classes.
SOURCE: Archives of Internal Medicine,
May 24, 2004.
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