I really started to investigate this information because I was curious how much force/pressure on the spine is produced by certain exercises. In particular, by someone that may have a compromised spinal column and wanting to exude the least amount of compression to the spine as possible.

One article1 with a small sample size demonstrated spinal loads given cycling, walking, standing or lifting 10kg. The smallest force on the spine was with unweighted standing, then with cycling, then with standing and then with lifting 10kg (see image). Not surprising. But it was nice to see some evidence (again with a small sample) that provides some insight into which exercises to recommend for those who are either trying to avoid spinal loading or those that are trying to increase it, depending on their diagnosis.

But then I started to think about the loading necessary to increase bone building for prevention of osteoporosis and also protection of the bones within a diagnosis of osteoporosis.

How much loading and which exercises are really best? Is jumping safe with osteoporosis?

You’ve likely heard that “weight bearing” exercises are beneficial for preventing osteoporosis and slowing bone loss. I get asked what that means all the time. Weight bearing exercises are those that load the most common areas of fracture in osteoporosis—the spine, hips and wrists.


On to the research………

Jumping?

A study of post-menopausal breast cancer survivors demonstrated improved bone mineral density (BMD) at the hip, and prevented BMD loss at the spine with a program that included jumping and resistance training.2-3 It is important to note that these women were all non-osteoporotic. So it does not speak to the safety of jumping movements in women with osteoporosis. What was interesting in this study was that it demonstrated better results for those women who were within 1 year of menopause. This speaks to starting preventative programs earlier, rather than later when changes may be more advanced.

I came across a study of osteoporotic men engaged in either resistance training or progressive jump training. 5

“The JUMP intervention included different jump exercises that varied in intensity, direction, single- or double-leg: squat jumps, forward hops, split-squat jumps, lateral box push-offs, bounding, bounding with rings (lateral), box drill with rings, lateral hurdle jumps, zigzag hops, single-leg lateral hops, progressive depth jumps (10–100 cm), and jumps off a box.” No more than 100 jumps were performed in a session.

The results of the 12 month study found increases in BMD of the whole body and lumbar spine. These effects were found after 6 months and were maintained by the 12 month mark. It’s important to note that both resistance training and the jumping groups both demonstrated improvements, and there was no significant effect of one over the other. It should be noted that though they accepted those with a T-score of -2.5 or greater (-1.0 SD). Those admitted had baseline levels closer to -1.32, which is more in the osteopenia range. It’s also interesting and important to note there were no adverse effects of the jumping exercises. There were no reported loss of bone, nor were there reports of fractures. It was deemed safe to add jumping to those with osteopenia.

Swimming vs Cycling?

We have heard that swimming and cycling are not osteogenic (bone-building) exercises. I wanted to hear the truth. This recent systematic review, reports that this is true—noting from 10 studies on cycling and 18 studies on swimming. 4

 

I feel this table summarizes the findings and recommendations very well. It’s from an Australian osteoporosis consumer and practitioner guide:6-7

So, I think we can conclude that swimming and cycling are not helpful for bone building. But that doesn’t mean you have to stop doing it. These forms of exercise have other benefits, such as cardiovascular and muscle building. But they do not load the bones. If you like to hike, walk, or climb stairs, you can try wearing a weighted vest. These vests are often adjustable in adding 1-20 pounds of extra weight. It has been shown that exercising with a weighted vest can slow bone loss.

 

And while yoga does not produce an excessive amount of forces on the bones, it is weight bearing. And it does improve your balance (as does Tai Chi). Don’t be afraid to try a few hops between poses coming back to Mountain (Tadasana). And is helpful for stress reduction (as talked about on another blog I wrote: click HERE).

 

I would not recommend hopping, jumping or jogging in place if you have a T-score of -3.0 or less. But if you are in the osteopenic range (-1.0 to -2.5), you may want to give some gentle hops or stomps a try. Just get clearance from your MD first.

 

So, ready to add some new exercises to your program? You’ve got to shock the system sometimes by adding something new and novel. Can you commit to adding something new to your weight bearing program at least once a week?

 

I welcome your feedback and if you find this information helpful, please share with your colleagues, friends and family. I would love to hear how you are changing up your exercise program to challenge your bones.  Contact Tianna if you are searching for how you can create an integrative program specifically for your needs.

Click below for your free osteoporosis risk assessment + free talk on how you can reduce your risk.

 

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**The contents of this website, such as text, graphics, images, and other material contained on the website (“Content”) are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice; the Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Rohlmann, A., Zander, T., Graichen, F., Schmidt, H., & Bergmann, G. (2014). Spinal Loads during Cycling on an Ergometer. PLoS ONE,9(4). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0095497
  2. Winters-Stone, K. M., Dobek, J., Nail, L. M., Bennett, J. A., Leo, M. C., Torgrimson-Ojerio, B., . . . Schwartz, A. (2012). Impact resistance training improves bone health and body composition in prematurely menopausal breast cancer survivors: a randomized controlled trial. Osteoporosis International,24(5), 1637-1646. doi:10.1007/s00198-012-2143-2
  3. Winters-Stone, K. M., Leo, M. C., & Schwartz, A. (2012). Exercise effects on hip bone mineral density in older, post-menopausal breast cancer survivors are age dependent. Archives of Osteoporosis,7(1-2), 301-306. doi:10.1007/s11657-012-0071-6
  4. Abrahin, O., Rodrigues, R. P., Marçal, A. C., Alves, E. A., Figueiredo, R. C., & Sousa, E. C. (2016). Swimming and cycling do not cause positive effects on bone mineral density: a systematic review. Revista Brasileira de Reumatologia (English Edition),56(4), 345-351. doi:10.1016/j.rbre.2016.02.013
  5. Hinton, P. S., Nigh, P., & Thyfault, J. (2015). Effectiveness of resistance training or jumping-exercise to increase bone mineral density in men with low bone mass: A 12-month randomized, clinical trial. Bone,79, 203-212. doi:10.1016/j.bone.2015.06.008
  6. Health Professional Resources. (n.d.). Retrieved June 18, 2017, from https://www.osteoporosis.org.au/health-professional-resources
  7. Gupta, A., & March, L. (2016). Treating osteoporosis. Australian Prescriber,39(2), 40-46. doi:10.18773/austprescr.2016.028