Exercise protects women’s ageing bones

Evidence that exercise combats osteoporosis has been strengthened by a Cochrane review, published on 22 July. The research confirms that exercise reduces women’s risk of developing the brittle-bone condition after menopause. ‘All types of exercise programmes slow the loss of bone mineral density and slightly reduce the risk of fracture in postmenopausal women,’ said Prof Howe, professor of rehabilitation sciences at Glasgow Caledonian University.

The review showed that postmenopausal women who didn’t exercise lost bone density more rapidly than those who did exercise. And 11 per cent of non-exercisers suffered a fracture, compared with seven per cent of those who exercised. The authors found that bone loss in the hips could best be slowed by strength training that was aimed at progressively increasing lower-body strength. To reduce bone loss in the spine, however, combining different types of exercise was most effective.

‘It is to be welcomed that the review shows a small but important effect of exercise on bone density,’ said Janet Thomas of AGILE, the CSP’s professional network for physios working with older people. ‘Physiotherapists should utilise the findings in clinical practice, making sure they use the best available evidence, such as using progressive resistance strength training for the lower limbs.’

Read the review