Why To Exercise Today: It May Be Better For Your Bones Than Drugs

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Medical Express shares an edifying interview here with Wendy Kohrt, a professor of geriatric medicine at the University of Colorado and an expert on the effects of exercise on bones as we age.

So what are the benefits of exercise on new bone development? "We generated increases in the neighborhood of 2 percent," Kohrt said.

That sounds ... pathetic. But wait! Kohrt explained exercise elicits similar bone growth improvements as do medications, but the true difference lies not in the increase in bone density, but in bone strength.

With drugs, it's a 1 to 1 ratio. If you increase density 2 percent, you increase strength 2 percent. With exercise, and this is being conservative, it's a tenfold difference. Kohrt explained a 2 percent increase in bone mass can translate into a 20 percent increase in bone strength, and perhaps as much as 40 percent.

It's important to note these are animal studies, because, well ... they needed to break the bones to find out how strong they are. Not many people volunteer for those kinds of studies. "When you exercise, the stresses only occur in the regions of the skeleton that experience that stress," Kohrt explained. Drugs aren't targeted, but if there are specifically weak areas of your skeleton, you can give them extra attention via focused training. That's good.

Read the full, fun interview here, and hat-tip to reader Tom Anthony for pointing it out.

This program aired on December 19, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

Carey Goldberg Twitter Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.