Article by Dr Sally Norton
A recent study showed that hopping for 2 minutes a day may reduce your risk of hip fracture. Sound crazy? I thought I’d take a look and examine the science behind the claim.
You may be aware that our bones tend to thin as we age – it’s called osteoporosis and is the one of the leading causes of hip fracture, which can have debilitating consequences in older age.
Plenty of studies show that people who exercise have stronger bones. Trouble is, how do you know it’s the exercise itself that is making the bones stronger? Perhaps it’s the fact that people who do regular exercise also tend to eat more healthy, calcium-containing foods, or get out in the fresh air more and boost their vitamin D levels?
This recent study makes it all clear in a very clever way!
Researchers invited 34 men over 65 to hop on one leg for 2 minutes each day for a year. Always the same leg. At the end of the year, they found that the hopping leg had denser bone than the non-exercised leg.
Hopping is high impact exercise
Hopping is high impact exercise – putting stress and strain through our bones. This is an example of ‘good stress’ though – bones love a bit of stress as it encourages them to grow stronger. Of course, skipping, jumping and running are just as good as hopping – but the beauty of this study was that hopping on one leg only meant that it could be compared to the other non-exercised leg. Any difference in bone density between the two, therefore, was down to the hopping – as nutrition and everything else would be the same for both legs! Genius!
Another recent study showed that long-distance running is associated with increased bone quality as measured in the calcaneus or heelbone. Now, I’m not advocating we should all take up marathons – but some high impact exercise seems a good way to reduce the risk of fractures as we get older.
Of course, you should check with your doctor before going hop, skip or jumping-mad, as there is a chance of causing trouble if you have weak bones, poor balance or unstable joints – but adding some oomph to your exercise routine may well reap rewards for decades to come.
Dr Sally Norton. NHS weight loss consultant & surgeon. National health expert. Founder of www.vavistalife.com