Study finds elderly women can halt bone loss

CORVALLIS, Ore. - A new Oregon State University study has found that postmenopausal women who participate in a long-term fitness regimen that includes jumping and "resistance" exercises using weighted vests can prevent significant bone loss in the hip.

In some cases, the researchers say, the bone density of elderly women who participated in the OSU study actually increased. Results of the five-year study have been accepted for a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.

The findings are significant because they suggest that exercise can provide a natural alternative to estrogen and other supplements for women seeking to prevent bone loss after menopause, said Christine Snow, director of the Bone Research Laboratory at OSU and principal investigator in the study.

The exercise program developed by Snow already was shown to be effective in helping the elderly reduce their risk of falls by improving their strength and balance. Those improvements, coupled with the new study results on halting bone loss, suggest that the number of hip fractures - estimated at 300,000 annually in the U.S. alone - could be significantly curtailed.

"The evidence is persuasive that the right kind of exercise can play a role in the slowing of bone loss in postmenopausal women," Snow said. "The women themselves are pretty excited about it."

The OSU study, which focused on bone density in the hip, found that the loss of bone by the exercise group was much less in the trochanter region and in total hip measurements than that of the control group, and that bone density actually increased in the femoral neck of the hip. The femoral neck is the site for more than 50 percent of all hip fractures in the U.S.

Overall, the control group lost 3.8 percent of total hip bone mass during the five years of the study while the exercise group lost less than 1 percent. The control group lost 3.4 percent bone mass in the trochanter compar

Contact: Christine Snow
Oregon State University

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