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Exercise May Protect Men’s Bones

Study Shows Middle-Aged Men Who Stay Active Suffer Fewer Broken Hips
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 20, 2007 -- Broken bones may be often associated with sporting injuries, but a new study shows that playing sports actually reduces the risk of broken bones over the long haul.

Swedish researchers followed a group of middle-aged men for 35 years and found those who were most active throughout their lives were least likely to suffer broken hips or other broken bones.

For example, men who lived a sedentary lifestyle were two and a half times more likely to have a broken hip compared with men who exercised vigorously or participated in sports at least three hours a week.

The researchers note that previous studies have linked exercise to lower risk of hip fracture in women. But this research suggests that men’s bones may also benefit from regular physical activity.

Preventing Broken Bones

In the study, Karl Michaelsson, MD, and colleagues at University Hospital in Uppsala, Sweden, surveyed a group of more than 2,000 men aged 49-51 in the early 1970s about their exercise habits and how much of their leisure time was spent engaged in physical activity. They were asked the same questions again at age 60, 70, 77, and 82.

The men were divided into three categories, according to their physical activity level:

  • Sedentary: little or no physical activity.
  • Moderate activity: those who occasionally walked or cycled for pleasure.
  • Active: those who participated in sports for at least three hours per week.

The results showed that 482 men had at least one broken bone and 134 broke a hip during the course of the study. But there were big differences among the three groups.

By the end of the study, 21% of the sedentary men had broken their hip compared with 13% of those who were moderately active and 8% of those who were active.

While moderate activities, like bicycling or walking for pleasure, did offer some benefits, researchers found participation in sports appeared to provide the biggest bone protection.

Based on these results, published in PLoS Medicine, researchers estimate that one-third of hip fractures among older men could be prevented if men participated in sports activities regularly.

  • Ready to jump back into exercise? WebMD’s expert, Rich Weil, MEd, CDE, can help you get started! Ask your questions on his message board.

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