Hop Like a Bunny And Live A Long, Bone-Strong Life

At one time, I could do it. Run a 10-minute mile that is.  (Once, in a 5K, I even ran an eight-minute mile!). But today my best is about 11 or 12 minutes, unless I'm running at the gym.

Which is bad news, because, according to Gretchen Reynolds at The New York Times, "Bones should be jarred, for their own good. Past experiments have definitively established that subjecting bones to abrupt stress prompts them to add mass or at least reduces their loss of mass as people age."

What hasn't been known is just how much force is required.  And the really bad news is that, it's a lot.

(I can't help thinking about the resident who told me, when I broke my wrist in December, "If you were younger, you wouldn't have broken it.")

Reynolds reports that research showed that running a 10-minute mile or jumping up onto and down from a box at least 15 inches high was needed to produce forces great enough to rebuild bone. "The significance of these findings is that people should probably run pretty fast or jump high to generate forces great enough to help build bone," she notes.

The same researchers equipped 20 women older than 60 with activity monitor and ran them through an aerobics class, several brief and increasingly brisk walks and a session of stepping onto and off a foot-high box. None of the women reached the 4-G threshold ­— none, in fact, generated more than 2.1 G’s of force at any point during the various exercises.

Now, for someone my age, I'm in pretty good shape.  I run, swim one-minute laps, and do water aerobics (which, people tell me, is double the exercise, though I've also heard that swimming does not help you lose weight; the jury is out for me because I haven't lost any weight doing this, but my clothes do fit better).

Experts say impacts that produce fewer than 4 G’s of force may help adults maintain bone mass but it’s unclear what level of force below 4 G’s is needed to build new bone.

Do you like to hop?  You're in luck. A study by other researchers published in January found that women between 25 and 50 "who hopped at least 10 times twice a day, with 30 seconds between each hop, significantly increased their hipbone density after four months," Reynolds points out. Another group of subjects, who hopped 20 times daily, showed even greater gains.

Hopping's not for me.  But running and jogging and swimming are.  When my bone mass was tested several years ago, it was fine.   So I'm not ready to go the bunny route just yet.  But it's certainly something to think about.  

Since our rate of longevity keeps increasing, it seems the more we can do to stay healthy, the better we will live for however long we live.


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