Bone Builders

Illustration by Teresa Hall

It may sound like the Olympics, but you don’t have to go to extremes to get benefits that could last a lifetime. Regular exercises can raise or maintain bone mass in children and adults, reducing fracture risks as they age.

Those are the conclusions of studies by Kathy Gunter and her team of undergraduate and graduate students in the OSU Extension Service and Dept. of Nutrition and Exercise Sciences. Here are a few numbers to remember.

15 minutes
Three times a week for an entire school year, more than 300 elementary school-aged children spent part of their physical education period jumping 100 times off a two-foot high platform. Four to seven years after the exercises stopped, jumpers had three to eight percent more bone mass in their hips, compared to control groups. The project known as BUGSY (BUilding the Growing Skeleton in Youth) was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

31 runners
In a recent study by Gunter, pre-adolescent girls had higher bone mineral content in their hips after participating in Girls on the Run for at least three months. The international self-esteem program may promote bone health that lasts well into adulthood. Gunter is following up on the positive association between running and bone mass in girls.

75 instructors
Better Bones and Balance is for older adults. Gunter and former OSU professor Christine Snow demonstrated that weight-bearing physical activity can reduce the risk of osteoporotic fractures in older women. Gunter has trained instructors to deliver the program in communities throughout Oregon, Washington and California. Data show that participants have greater bone mass, reduced fall risk and better functional capacity than those in control groups.