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Is exercise enough for bone health?

By Dr. Susan E. Brown, PhD

Who else has spring fever and is ready to spend more time outdoors walking, gardening and just moving? Spring definitely reminds me to brush off my exercise plan.

A big motivating factor is the explosion of recent research emphasizing the profound benefits of exercise. One 2015 long-term European study showed a 50% reduction of all low trauma fracture overall with a multipurpose exercise program mixing  endurance, jumping, strength training and stretching done 4 days a week.

Another study shows improving fitness may counteract brain atrophy in older adults, including those already diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment.

With all the clear benefits, it’s hard not to think that exercise is everything you need for healthy bones, body and mind. But in reality, if you’re getting the exercise you need for better bones, you’ll need more nutrients too. Here’s why:

Nutrient needs increase with exercise

If you’re already exercising, keep moving!  The average woman will lose 45% of her bone and muscle as she ages from 35 to 85. Exercise is an important piece of the puzzle to limit bone loss — but it’s not enough alone. What might surprise you is that exercise creates nutrient needs in your body that need to be considered in your overall bone-building program.

  • Exercise uses vital minerals, vitamins, amino acids and other nutrients needed to build and maintain bone strength. This is especially true with exercise that makes you sweat a lot!  For example, during a basketball season University of Memphis college players lost an average of 247 mg calcium in their sweat alone. Even more, there was an overall decrease of 6.1% in total bone mineral content and a 10.5% decrease in mineral content in their legs, and the average player lost 3.8% of his bone density in 3 months while playing. Calcium supplementation during exercise and with meals reversed these decreases in bone mineral content. (Klesges et al. 1996)
  • Exercise also creates oxidative damage. The more strenuous the exercise the more free radicals produced and the more oxidative damage to cells. For this reason, exercise substantially increases our need for a wide range of protective anti-oxidants such as vitamins C and E, N-acetylcysteine, CoQ10, flavonoids, beta carotene, etc. (Finaud et al. 2006; Ji 1999)
  • Exercise can disrupt acid-alkaline balance. Strenuous exercise acidifies by creating excess lactic acid, oxidative damage and other metabolic by-products. In fact, elite athletes given alkalizing mineral compounds to combat exercise-induced acidosis performed significantly better than non-supplemented athletes (Heil et al. 2012).

Increase your nutrient intake

Again, I encourage you to keep up with your personal exercise plan!  But as you do, it pays to compensate for any losses by getting enough of the key nutrients your body requires.  Vigorous exercise helps strengthen bone, but the exercise-induced changes should be counterbalanced with extra nutrients and the alkaline mineral reserve compounds found in an alkaline diet and the Better Bones products.

If you participate in tai chi, Qi Gong and yoga, these mindful gentle exercises do not create oxidative stress and they help alkalize the body. Nonetheless, research shows that even these mindful exercises should be accompanied by intake of all the essential 20+ key bone-building nutrients (Shen et al. 2007).

 

References:
Kemmler, W. (2015, October 15) Exercise and fractures in postmenopausal women. Final results of the controlled Erlangen Fitness and Osteoporosis Prevention Study. Osteoporosis International Volume 26, Issue 10, pp 2491-2499.  (Retrieved February 26, 2016:  http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00198-015-3165-3)

University of Maryland. (2015, November 19). Improving fitness may counteract brain atrophy in older adults, study shows: Exercise may help to reverse neurodegeneration in those with mild cognitive impairment, an early stage of Alzheimer's disease. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 26, 2016: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/11/151119113458.htm

Finaud, J., G. Lac, and E. Filaire. (2006) Oxidative stress: Relationship with exercise and training. Sports Medicine 36(4):327–358.

Heil, D. P., E. A. Jacobson, and S. M. Howe. 2012. Influence of an alkalizing supplement on markers of endurance performance using a double-blind placebo-controlled design. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 9:8.

Ji, L. L. (1999) Antioxidants and oxidative stress in exercise. Experimental Biology and Medicine 222(3):283–292.

Klesges, R. C., K. D. Ward, M. L. Shelton, W. B. Applegate, E. D. Cantler, G. M. Palmieri, K. Harmon, and J. Davis. (1996) Changes in bone mineral content in male athletes: Mechanisms of action and intervention effects. Journal of the American Medical Association 276(3):226–230.

Shen, C. L., J. S. Williams, M. C. Chyu, R. L. Paige, A. L. Stephens, K. B. Chauncey, F. R. Prabhu, L. T. Ferris, and J. K. Yeh. (2007) Comparison of the effects of tai chi and resistance training on bone metabolism in the elderly: A feasibility study. The American Journal of Chinese Medicine 35(3):369–381.

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We created the Better Bones blog as our forum to express opinions and educate the public about natural means of supporting and improving bone health and overall wellness. As part of this forum, we sometimes discuss medical issues and medications, and their effects on bone health in general. However, we cannot advise readers about specific medical issues in this forum. If you wish to obtain advice from Susan E. Brown, PhD, about your specific bone health and nutritional concerns, please visit our Consultations page. Other specific medical questions should be referred to your healthcare provider.

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