BBC Two programme highlights confusion over best exercise for bone health

20 Feb 2018

There’s a lack of awareness about the best exercise for good bone health, a programme due to be broadcast on BBC Two says.

Trust Me I’m a Doctor - due to be shown on BBC Two at 8.30pm on Wednesday 21st February - highlights confusion over which types of exercise are best for people to build strong bones.

The programme shows that some exercises have a more beneficial effect on bone density than others, with professional cricketers found to have better bone health than other elite sports players.

Professor Karen Hind - a researcher in bone physiology and health at Leeds Metropolitan University - features on the programme, looking at DXA scans of participants’ spines and hips to examine the effects of different types of exercise on bone density. 

Cricketers had the highest bone density scores when compared to elite gymnasts and road cyclists, with female cricketers having 22 per cent and male cricketers 18 per cent higher than average bone density for their age. In contrast, it was found that female cyclists had, on average, 6 per cent lower and men 9 per cent lower bone density for their age.

“Bone is not a solid structure and is highly adaptive to the kind of activity you are doing,” Professor Hind told The Times today. “There’s no impact loading at all on a bike. Cycling is a wonderful exercise for developing cardio-metabolic health, but in terms of improving the skeleton, it’s pretty rubbish.”

She says that people looking to improve their bone health need to be doing exercise where they are supporting their own body weight, or shifting their weight off the ground - such as hiking, running, skipping, dancing or tennis.

The National Osteoporosis Society is currently working with experts to develop a consensus statement on exercise for those who already have fractures, or are at risk of breaking a bone. The charity is also developing new information resources for people with osteoporosis with standardised information about the safest, most effective exercises to strengthen bones.

National Osteoporosis Society Osteoporosis Nurse Consultant Sarah Leyland said: “Weight-bearing, impact and muscle resistance exercises are important to help maintain bone strength and prevent fractures. It's also crucial to improve muscle strength and balance in later life, to reducing the risk of falling over."

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