One minute of running per day associated with better bone health in women

One minute of running per day associated with better bone health in women

A single minute of exercise each day is linked to better bone health in women, new research shows.

“Just 1-2 minutes of running a day is good for bone health.”

Scientists from the University of Exeter and the University of Leicester found those who did “brief bursts” of high-intensity, weight-bearing activity equivalent to a medium-paced run for pre-menopausal women, or a slow jog for post-menopausal women, had better bone health.

Using data from UK Biobank, the researchers found that women who on average did 60-120 seconds of high-intensity, weight-bearing activity per day had 4% better bone health than those who did less than a minute.

“We don’t yet know whether it’s better to accumulate this small amount of exercise in bits throughout each day or all at once, and also whether a slightly longer bout of exercise on one or two days per week is just as good as 1-2 minutes a day,” said lead author Dr Victoria Stiles, of the University of Exeter.

“But there’s a clear link between this kind of high-intensity, weight-bearing exercise and better bone health in women.

“Because this is a cross-sectional study — which assesses data taken from a subset of the population at a particular point in time — we can’t be sure whether the high-intensity physical activity led to better bone health, or whether those with better bone health do more of this exercise.

“However, it seems likely that just 1-2 minutes of running a day is good for bone health.”

The researchers looked at data on more than 2,500 women, and compared activity levels (measured by wrist-worn monitors) with bone health (measured by an ultrasound scan of heel bone).

As well as finding 4% better bone health among women who did one to two minutes of high-intensity, weight-bearing exercise, they found 6% better bone health among those who did more than two minutes a day.

Dr Stiles said data from UK Biobank — taken from monitors worn for a week — was broken down into single seconds to understand how people go about their daily activities.

“We wanted to make every second count in our analysis, because short snippets of high-intensity activity are more beneficial to bone health than longer, continuous periods,” she said.

“We were careful not to ignore short bursts of activity throughout the day.”

As a suggestion for anyone interested in increasing their day-to-day levels of activity, Dr Stiles said: “The UK’s National Osteoporosis Society recommends increasing your walking activity first.

“Further on, we would suggest adding a few running steps to the walk, a bit like you might if you were running to catch a bus.”

Good bone health has multiple health benefits, including a reduced risk of osteoporosis and fractures in older age.


Story Source: University of Exeter.


Journal Reference:

  1. Victoria H Stiles, Brad S Metcalf, Karen M Knapp, Alex V Rowlands. A small amount of precisely measured high-intensity habitual physical activity predicts bone health in pre- and post-menopausal women in UK Biobank. International Journal of Epidemiology, 2017; DOI: 10.1093/ije/dyx080

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