Jogging builds better bones in men, study finds

AP, Jun 28, 2002


Young men who jog regularly build strong bones and may be less likely to develop the brittle bone disease osteoporosis, a new study finds.

Researchers report in the American Journal of Public Health that men in their 30s who jog at least nine times a month develop a bone density that is at least 5 percent higher than that of men who jog less.For couch potatoes, men who do little or no exercise, the bone density of joggers was almost 8 percent better, said Michael E. Mussolino, a researcher at the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention office in Hyattesville, Md. Mussolino is first author of the study in the July edition of the journal, which is a publication of the American Public Health Association.

To gather the data, the researchers analyzed answers to questions in a health survey of 4,254 men, including 954 joggers and 3,300 who did not jog.The study included results of hip bone X-rays taken of each of the men to determine bone density. The researchers compared the findings from joggers with results from non-joggers. The men who were jogging nine times a month were doing much better than those who were jogging only one to eight times a month, said Mussolino. Even those who jogged eight or fewer times a month had a higher bone density than those who did not jog at all.

Mussolino said the study shows that it does not require marathon-like running to build strong bones. "This shows that just a casual frequency of jogging is beneficial, he said. Osteoporosis is most common in women past menopause, but the disorder is not uncommon in men. The NIH estimates that about 10 million Americans now have osteoporosis and another 18 million are at risk of the disease due to low bone density. Eighty percent of these people are women. It is estimated that one out of every two women and one in eight men will break a bone as the result of osteoporosis within their lifetime.

Mussolino said the study did not analyze the effects of other types of exercise and could not draw conclusions about the benefits of such things as walking or active sports. All of the participants in the study were in their 30s and most were nonsmokers or former smokers. They were all on diets estimated at about 2,800 calories a day. The joggers generally weighed less than the non-joggers and were more likely to have never smoked, the study found.

Mussolino said the survey suggested the joggers were also apt to have a more active lifestyle, reporting almost twice as many leisure activities as the non-joggers. Building dense strong bones in young adulthood is considered by experts to be an important hedge against osteoporosis, the brittle bone disease that generally develops in later years. Bone is usually strongest around age 30 and then weakens slowly throughout the rest of life. In osteoporosis, bones become weak and brittle, leading to fractures that can cripple and shorten life.