Aerobic Exercise, Weights Boost Bone Strength
Researchers suggest high-impact aerobics for leg bones; weight training for hips
WebMD News Archive
April 4, 2005 -- Young women can boost their bone strength with just six
months of exercise, even if they've been sitting on the sidelines for a
The key is combining high-impact aerobics and strength training. In a new
study, step aerobics delivered the greatest gains in leg, spine, and heel bone
density, while hip bones improved more with weight training.
In other words, do some of both types of exercise. While you're at it, add
some weight training exercises to build bones in the upper body. The bone
benefits add up quickly, says Michael T.C. Liang of California State
Polytechnic University, in a news release.
Aerobics, Weight Training Go Head-to-Head
Exercise amounted to a bone makeover for the women in Liang's study.
Participants were women aged 20-35 years. Like many Americans, they were
sedentary, getting basically no exercise.
Liang and colleagues split the women into three groups. One group (29 women)
was assigned to do high-impact step aerobics three times a week for six months.
Another group (20 women) spent six months on a lower-body strength-training
schedule. A third group (20 women) was allowed to stay idle, without any
The exercisers got close supervision during their workouts.
At the study's start and end, the women's bone density was measured at the
heel, leg bones, spine, hip, and wrist. Liang's team watched to see how bone
The step aerobics group had the biggest improvement in heel, spine, and leg
- Hip bone density went up 3.3%
- Lumbar spine density went up 1.2%
- Leg bone density went up 0.9%
The strength-training group did better in the hip area. They had a gain of
0.9% in the density of the head of the hip bone, and a tiny hip density
increase overall (0.1%). Meanwhile, their heel bone density was up 0.1%, while
leg bone density dropped by 0.4%.
Hip density dipped by 0.1% and head-of-the-hip density was down 0.7% in the
What about the women with no formal exercise program? Their heel bone
density dropped 0.2%. But their hip and leg bone density each went up by 0.2%,
says the news release.
The bottom line: Mix high-impact exercise and strength training for best
bone results, the study suggests. Strong bones also require adequate calcium,
vitamin D, and other nutrients. Those aspects weren't addressed in this
The findings were presented at Experimental Biology 2005, a science
conference in San Diego.