If you have been diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis, you may be wondering which lifestyle changes can decrease your risk of fracturing a bone.
A recent systematic review in Osteoporosis International aimed to determine whether exercise is one of those impactful lifestyle changes. The study reported data on two other related questions: Over what length of time (duration) should someone exercise and at what intensity progression does someone need to exercise in order to effectively decrease their risk of a fracture?
Compiling the data from all related studies, the authors found that exercise (particularly the bone-building kind) significantly decreased the risk of fracturing. This was expected, since previous research has shown that weight-bearing and resistance exercises can increase bone strength and balance exercises can decrease the risk of falls that may lead to fractures.
While the data from these studies did not indicate a statistically significant difference for intensity progression and duration of exercise, the authors did note trends of fewer fractures with progressive loading (gradually increasing resistance throughout training) over time. Unfortunately, more research is needed to be able to define key parameters for exercise duration and intensity progression in order to recommend a specific protocol for decreasing fracture risk.
Conclusion: Exercise is good for decreasing fractures. How long should one exercises and at what intensity progression? Scientific research will tell us soon. Until then, regular exercise (3-5 days per week) with progressive loading (increasing the resistance as you get stronger) is the way to go.