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High-impact exercise during skeletal growth linked to greater bone mass in middle-aged men

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Research published in the American Journal of Men´s Health shows that bone-loading exercise during adolescence and young adulthood, when the skeleton is still growing, helps build bone density.

Studying factors that protect against osteoporosis for men, a University of Missouri researcher analysed data from the physical histories of 203 males aged 30-65 years. The sports and exercise histories of the participants varied, both in type and level of activity, and the length of time they spent doing various physical activities also differed.

The study showed that individuals who continuously participated in high-impact activities, such as jogging and tennis, during adolescence and young adulthood had greater hip and lumbar spine bone mineral density than those who did not. Moreover, the results showed that high-impact activity during growth and adulthood is an important determinant for bone health later in life.

“While osteoporosis is commonly associated with only post-menopausal women, it is, in fact, a serious issue for men as well,” said Pamela Hinton, associate professor in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology in the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences. “Indeed, research has shown that the consequences of osteoporosis can be much worse for men, as they are less likely to be diagnosed and are at a greater mortality risk from fractures that occur as a result of a fall.”

Hinton added that, in healthy individuals, “it is never too late to begin high-impact activities or resistance training to improve bone mineral density.”

She continued: “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 programme.”