Exercising May Be Key To Fighting Osteoporosis

Although the decreased estrogen levels associated with menopause have been linked to osteoporosis, bone density actually starts to decline years prior to menopause. Studies are showing that physical activity may be the key to preventing bone density loss, and forestalling osteoporosis.

Dr. Joseph Cannon of Allied Health Sciences explains that, during natural aging, bone density levels decrease as the pituitary gland releases follicle-stimulating hormones to help regulate ovarian function. Cannon believes that these follicle-stimulating hormones increase the production of cytokines -- regulatory proteins that are responsible for signaling certain cells to transform into osteoclasts.

Osteoclasts break down and resorb bone, so the increase in cytokines can be linked to decreased bone density levels. A study conducted by Cannon's team shows that, for women between the ages of 20 and 50, there is a distinct correlation between increased follicle-stimulating hormones and lower bone density, as well as between higher levels of cytokines and lower bone density.

But the most important discovery made by his team was that of the 36 women who participated in the study, those who exercised more than 180 minutes per week showed a greater retention of bone density. Cannon explains that exercise promotes inhibitory factors in the body that control the production of cytokines and bone density loss. Regular physical activity seems to be the key to preventing bone deterioration and eventual osteoporosis.

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