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Running may be Superior For Strong Bones and Resistance Exercises

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Running Man

A new study from University of Missouri shows that running may be superior to resistance exercises for preventing bone loss that can lead to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis, from decreased bone mineral density (BMD), is a public health concern that affects millions people – including men.

Resistance training is currently recommended to help men prevent bone loss, but studies have been conflicting. The current study suggests that high impact activities may be better for maintaining strong bones, compared to resistance exercise.

Pam Hinton, associate professor in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology in the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences says, “The results of the study confirm that both resistance training and high-impact endurance activities increase bone mineral density. However, high-impact sports, like running, appear to have a greater beneficial effect.”

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According to Hinton, exercises that stress the skeletal system helps maintain strong bones, by maintaining bone mineral density. “For example, performing upper body resistance exercises will not increase bone mineral density of the hips. The response of bone to loading is determined by the magnitude of the force, and the rate and direction(s) at which it is applied. Therefore, high-impact, dynamic, multi-directional activities, including structured jump-training (plyometrics), result in greater gains in bone strength. Playing basketball, volleyball, or soccer are also good options.”

The researchers studied men, age 19 to 45. They compared the effects of running, cycling, and resistance training on BMD. Bone mineral density tests measure how strong our bones are, and whether or not we are at risk for fractures and other disabilities, especially with aging.

The researchers found that runners had greater spine bone mineral density, compared to cyclists, after adjusting for lean body mass. Running had no effect on bone density in lean runners, but cycling and resistance exercises were associated with BMD. “…high-impact activity may override the benefits of lean body mass on BMD”, Hinton said.

Loss of bone mineral density can result in osteoporosis, placing us at risk for fractures, and other disabilities. The research shows that running may be superior for maintaining strong bones, when compared to resistance exercise.

Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research:
Scott R. Rector et al.
March 2009 - Volume 23 - Issue 2 - pp 427-435
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31819420e1
"Lean Body Mass and Weight-Bearing Activity in the Prediction of Bone Mineral Density in Physically Active Men"



you need to be clear about what it is that you are comparing....when you compare running and resistance training you need to equalize the components of each modality....for instance....lets say that you run 4 laps on a track, which usually will total about a mile in distance...OK, so how many steps did you take? lets say you did 30 steps for each 100 meters...so 4 times 30 steps is 120 steps per 400 meters and that would equal @ 480 steps per mile...Ok so you weigh 150 pounds....now if you want fairness between resistance training and running , you would need to do 480 repetitions of leg extensions with 150 pounds and 480 repetitions of leg curls with 75 or 80 pounds to equal the work load that you would get from running....now the work load would exceed the running work load and your legs would get stronger....but most people would say do 3 sets of 10 repetitions...when you actually need to do 10 sets of 48 repetitions to get anywhere near the same benefits...and then the running would still produce more benefits in most instances unless you used the same speed protocol, and then you have higher injury risks unless you are qualified......
Hi - thanks for your comment. So, you're suggesting "magnitude of force" is not a primary factor, but instead, work load?
One of the keys is that they are both primary factors and they complement each other . when you build the work load and combine it then with magnitude of force , you should see better results than if you only do one and not the other. Test it...and see how it works for you.....
Well, I guess the researchers said that essentially - combining the two - with running - sans injury - giving best results? But I think you are saying increasing workload with resistance is also important. Thanks so much.
Remember, the runners that we are studying are at an age where bone density is a growing concern, so therefore we are not looking at young in their prime competitors who are not finished growing, but those that need the stimulation of the combined resistance to prevent bone brittleness and injury and running is more difficult than resistance training using certain bone density maintenance protocols.
:) - Thank you again!