National Osteoporosis Awareness Month may be next month, but reminders about enhancing bone health are always appropriate. For example, you can remind your clients that the best defense against osteoporosis is to develop strong bones, especially before the age of 30, and that regular exercise has been shown to encourage bone growth throughout life.

Of course, according to a study presented at the 70th annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in New Orleans, bone may
be more responsive to certain types of exercise than to others. In the study, researchers compared the bone mineral densities (BMDs) of adolescent females involved in Olympic-style weight lifting, competition-level swimming or competition-level tennis. The weight lifters and tennis players had similar BMDs, which were noticeably greater than that of the swimmers. The researchers concluded that activities such as weight lifting and tennis are much more weight-bearing than minimal-impact activities, such as swimming. Activities done while one stands on both feet work the bones and muscles against gravity, and, to adapt to the impact of weight and pull of muscle, bone builds more cells to become stronger.

Laura Gehrig, MD—study leader and orthopedic surgeon at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in Shreveport, Louisiana—elaborated, “During childhood, when bone accrual is greatest, exercise potentiates bone development…activities such as stair climbing, step aerobics, soccer, jogging and skating are weight-bearing activities that may increase bone mass sooner than expected in adolescents and to a greater degree than we thought.”

Walking is another weight-bearing activity, but Diane Daniels, author of Exercises for Osteoporosis, cautions against it as a primary means of combating osteoporosis. “Walking…can be part of a program
to prevent osteoporosis, but it is not the whole story. To cause bone to grow, it must be challenged with
a new, added weight, not the same load over and over again as with walking,” she said. She added that strength training is ideal for minimizing the risk of developing the disease.

To learn more about osteoporosis and how to avoid it, visit the National Osteoporosis Foundation Web site at