Good News For Women’s Bones: Exercise Increases IGF-1, Decreases Sclerostin

Preventing bone loss for women doesn’t have to be require medication. New research shows physical activity increases IGF-1 levels and decreases sclerostin, a known bone-growth inhibitor.

New research from a study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism suggests physical activity for premenopausal women is very beneficial to bone health. Physical activity was also shown to increase IGF-1 levels, which have a positive effect on bone formation. As women age they are susceptible to bone less due to hormonal changes and lack of physical activity, so any natural way of mitigating these effects could be beneficial.

There were 1,235 randomly selected premenopausal women who were included in the study. The researchers selected 58 of these women to complete an eight-week physical training course, and then compared them with 62 who did not participate in physical activity during those eight weeks. Upon completion of the study, the women who had more than two hours of physical activity per week had significantly lower levels of sclerostin, and had higher levels of IGF-1 compared to the women who had less than two hours of physical activity per week.1

The research indicates that physical activity for premenopausal women is very effective at reducing a well-known bone inhibitor called sclerostin. Sclerostin is a glycoprotein produced almost entirely by the most abundant cells in human bones, which are known as osteocytes. When sclerostin is released, it travels to the surface of the bone where it interferes with developing bone cells.2

“Physical activity is good for bone health and results in lowering sclerostin, a known inhibitor of bone formation and enhancing IGF-1 levels, a positive effector on bone health,” said Mohammed-Salleh M. Ardawi, PhD, FRCPath, professor at the Center of Excellence for Osteoporosis Research and Faculty of Medicine at King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia and lead researcher for this study. “We also found physical activity training that enhances mechanical loading in combination with anabolic therapeutic agents will have added positive effect on bone health, particularly bone formation.”3

“Physical activity training is conceptually simple, inexpensive, and can serve practical purposes including reducing the risk of low bone mass, osteoporosis, and consequently fractures,” said Ardawi. “Our study found that even minor changes in physical activity were associated with clear effects on serum levels of sclerostin, IGF-1 and bone turnover markers.”4

The discovery of the effects of physical activity on sclerostin is potentially good news to all women. Women often fall victim to disorders such as osteoporosis as they reach middle-age and beyond. The research from this study proves that the effects of bone loss can be mitigated or prevented with something as simple as physical activity.5

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