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Durham University

Research & business

How to keep your bones strong

(25 April 2019)

Think you should slow down as you get older? Think again!

Weight-bearing and muscle strengthening exercises are important for building bone strength and preventing osteoporosis, however, new research shows that even just getting your 10,000 steps a day can be important for keeping your bones strong.

Sitting is bad for your bones

The study, led by our Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences, also found that the more time people in their sixties spent sitting down, the lower their bone strength was.

The research also found that men spent more time sitting still than women and those who were the most sedentary, had the lowest bone strength, particularly in their lower back.

This is the first study to show that a sedentary lifestyle in men is associated with a greater risk for osteoporosis.

Economic and personal cost

Fragility fractures are a symptom of osteoporosis, a skeletal disease which is more common in older people. The economic and personal costs of this disease are substantial – in the UK the direct costs of fragility fractures are estimated to be £.4.4 billion which includes £1.1 billion for social care. Over half a million fragility fractures - where a fracture occurs from a fall at standing height or less – happen each year in the United Kingdom. It is estimated that by 2025, that number will have gone up by 27%.

The research team followed 214 men and women aged 62 from the Newcastle Thousand Families Study, and each participant wore a monitor for seven days which measured their physical activity and sedentary time. The participants also received a bone density scan of the spine and hip.

Keep active to keep your bones strong

Public health campaigns encourage older people to keep active to maintain a healthy heart or to avoid developing type 2 diabetes. However, the negative impact of inactivity on the bone strength of this age group hasn’t received as much attention.

The take away message from this study is that you need to keep active to keep your bones strong. If you can't get to the gym or take part in high impact exercise, just hitting your 10,000 daily steps target and avoiding long periods of sitting down appears to make a meaningful difference. Daily lifestyle hacks such as parking the car further away from the shopping centre, or using the stairs instead of the lift can help.

Find out more

Read the full research here

Link to the profile of the lead researcher Dr Karen Hind

How simple exercises and lifestyle changes that are similar to activities of a hunter gatherer can help build bone strength

These findings were part of a collaboration with Newcastle University and the Newcastle Thousand Families Study

This study was supported by JGW Patterson Foundation and The National Institute for Health Research

Find out about undergraduate and postgraduate study in the Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences

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