Osteoporosis is often a concern for postmenopausal women. Bone mineral density can decrease with age, and the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures increases. But is there anything that can be done to impact these risks and how does exercise affect bone mineral density?
Many research studies have investigated whether exercise is able to improve bone strength in menopausal women – which is typically assessed using bone mineral density. Although many studies have reported that exercise improves bone mineral density, the specific types of exercise that might be most beneficial have not been determined.
One study analysed the results of multiple research studies that used various forms of exercise to improve bone mineral density, in an effort to determine which type of exercise had the greatest effects.
Bone mineral density was assessed in these studies either by DEXA or dual photon absorptiometry (DPA), which measure the mineral content of bones in specific areas.
To determine the effects of different types of exercise on bone mineral density, the researchers divided the exercise types into three groups – ‘dynamic resistance exercise’, for example running or aerobic dance, ‘weight bearing exercise’, such as walking or dancing, and combinations of weight bearing and dynamic resistance exercise.
The study reported that there was a positive effect of exercise on bone mineral density in postmenopausal women. There were no differences between exercise types that were observed.
Although they reported no significant differences between types of exercise and bone mineral density, the researchers suggest that resistance type exercises may have a slightly higher benefit, which is also supported in current guidelines that recommended resistance training and impact exercises; however, other factors may also have an impact on BMD. Further research is necessary to specifically determine the best conditions and types of exercise to improve bone mineral density.
The researchers also suggest that there might be some evidence to suggest that exercising earlier in menopause may be more beneficial than later in postmenopausal women.
The study provides further evidence for the benefits of exercise – regardless of type – on bone mineral density in postmenopausal women.
Reference: Kemmler, W., Shojaa, M., Kohl, M. et al. Effects of Different Types of Exercise on Bone Mineral Density in Postmenopausal Women: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Calcif Tissue Int 107, 409–439 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00223-020-00744-w
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