The older we get, the more we have to pay close attention to our bone health to prevent things like fractures and breaks. Namely, bone density starts to decrease after middle-age, with osteoporosis impacting nearly 20% of women and 5% of men1 ages 50 and up. But according to new research published in the journal Nature2, there's one lifestyle fix that can help maintain bone density as you age. Here's what they found.
Studying the impact of a sedentary lifestyle
For this study, researchers wanted to understand the relationship between bone mineral density (BMD), body fat percentage, and physical versus sedentary lifestyles. As the study authors note, sedentary activity and physical activity are known to impact both skeletal parameters and body fat percentage.
Looking at data from nearly 10,000 adults between the ages of 20 and 59 over the course of seven years, the researchers measured participants' body fat percentage and bone density through dual-energy X-ray bone densitometry (DXA), and further recorded participants' activity levels.
What may come as no surprise, a sedentary lifestyle was associated with a higher body fat percentage. But it was also associated with worse bone density, relative to the more physically active participants. Those physically active participants not only showed lower body fat but also greater bone density.
"Our results show that physical activity is a key component of maintaining bone health in both men and women and is strongly associated with lower body fat percentages," the study authors write, adding, "Sedentary activity is negatively correlated with bone density and is strongly associated with an increase in body fat percentage. "They also note that going forward, health care workers should suggest patients increase physical activity to help prevent osteoporosis and obesity.
How to have a more physically active lifestyle
It can feel daunting to suddenly start a new workout routine or become a gym rat, but this research isn't saying you have to be a full-blown athlete—you just want to avoid being sedentary and prioritize getting enough movement.
This can be as simple as:
Going for a daily walk
Taking the stairs instead of the elevator
Incorporating "movement breaks" into your workday, getting up from your desk periodically and stretching or walking around
Walking to your nearest store instead of driving
Going for bike rides
Doing gentle yoga or tai chi
Getting a standing desk
Stretching before bed
A physically active lifestyle is easily one of the most important lifestyle factors that contributes to sustained well-being and longevity, and according to this research, it can even help with supporting bone density. So, whether you're 25 or 65, the message is clear: Avoid staying sedentary and get your body moving.
Source: July 28, 2023 By Sarah Regan - MBG Spirituality & Relationships Editor