Exercise for preventing and treating osteoporosis in postmenopausal women

The objective of this study was to examine the effectiveness of exercise interventions in preventing bone loss and fractures in postmenopausal women. Forty-three RCTs (27 new in this update) with 4320 participants met the inclusion criteria. The most effective type of exercise intervention on bone mineral density (BMD) for the neck of femur appears to be non-weight bearing high force exercise such as progressive resistance strength training for the lower limbs (MD 1.03; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.24 to 1.82). The most effective intervention for BMD at the spine was combination exercise programmes (MD 3.22; 95% CI 1.80 to 4.64) compared with control groups. Fractures and falls were reported as adverse events in some studies. There was no effect on numbers of fractures (odds ratio (OR) 0.61; 95% CI 0.23 to 1.64). Overall, the quality of the reporting of studies in the meta-analyses was low, in particular in the areas of sequence generation, allocation concealment, blinding and loss to follow-up.

The results suggest a relatively small statistically significant, but possibly important, effect of exercise on bone density compared with control groups. Exercise has the potential to be a safe and effective way to avert bone loss in postmenopausal women.

Howe TE, Shea B, Dawson LJ, Downie F, Murray A, Ross C, Harbour RT, Caldwell LM, Creed G. Exercise for preventing and treating osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. Cochrane Library, 22nd July 2011, online at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/o/cochrane/clsysrev/articles/CD000333/abstract.html

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