As the body ages, it is vitally important to maintain bone health through weight-bearing activity. According to a recent report, higher-impact physical activity may be beneficial for improving bone strength. Published in the November/ December issue of Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach (2009; 1 , 508–13), the report suggests that bone mineral density (BMD) can increase significantly in older athletes who participate in high-impact sports.
The study included 298 women and 289 men aged 50–93 who participated in the 2005 National Senior Games, held in Pittsburgh. Participants completed a questionnaire, underwent BMD testing and provided general medical information. At study completion, the researchers determined that those who participated in high-impact sports had greater BMD than those who did not.
Jan Schroeder, PhD, associate professor of kinesiology at California State University, Long Beach, finds this study promising. “Participation in high-impact activities does wonders for bone density,” she says. “Bone responds positively to strain magnitude (the amount of relative change in bone length under mechanical loading) and strain rate (the rate at which strain develops and releases).” But high-impact activity may also place an older exerciser at greater risk for injury. “To keep a mature athlete safe, a personal trainer should work to make sure the client’s muscular system can handle the impact,” she adds. “If a client does not possess the strength, then time should be spent building a strength base prior to introducing high-impact activities.”