Weight-Bearing Exercise Leads to Healthier Bones

While exercises such as swimming and cycling are beneficial to overall health, these activities do not strengthen the skeleton. For that you need to lift some weights.

Osteoporosis is a lot more common a problem than you’d expect. It’s estimated that more than 200 million people around the world suffer from the degradation of bone cells. While women are at a higher risk of the problem, men have a chance of suffering from bone wasting as well. That’s why it’s so important that you spend time engaging in weight-bearing exercise.

A study from the University of Missouri-Columbia found that weight-bearing exercise (resistance training using heavy weights) can do wonders to decrease bone density loss. The researchers gathered men between the ages of 25 to 60, all of whom had a low bone mass, to begin with. They were divided into two groups: jump training group (which performed jumping exercises) and weight-bearing group (which performed regular resistance training exercises using free weights). At the end of 12 months, the researchers analyzed hormones and bone proteins in the participants’ bodies.

The weight-bearing exercise had two major effects on the participants: First, it decreased the amount of sclerostin produced. High levels of the bone protein sclerostin have been linked to decreased bone formation. The exercise helped to decrease the amount of this bone protein produced, encouraging the proper growth of bone cells.

Second, it increased the amount of IGF-1 produced. Insulin-like Growth Factor 1, (IGF-1) is vital for the production of new bone tissue. The exercise helped to increase the amount of IGF-1 produced in the body, which led to the formation of bone cells—ergo, healthier bones.

The good news is that both weight-bearing exercise and jump training led to an increase in IGF-1 and a decrease in sclerostin. Simply put, that means both types of exercise (high impact and weight-bearing) can help to improve bone health and reduce your risk of osteoporosis.

If you’re worried about the health of your bones, it’s time to engage in activities that target bone development specifically. While swimming, cycling, elliptical training, yoga, and other low-impact activities are excellent for your muscles and joints, you also need to give your bones some attention. That means engaging in weight-bearing and high impact activities. Both of these force your body to produce new bone cells, leading to healthier bones.

And it can’t hurt to improve the quality of your diet as well. You may want to start looking into getting more calcium in your diet—from dairy products, dark leafy greens, and kale. You should also increase your magnesium and manganese intake, and add a bit more healthy fat to your diet. Calcium is a fat-soluble mineral, meaning it needs to be consumed alongside fat in order for it to be absorbed into your body.


1. Pamela S. Hinton, Peggy Nigh, John Thyfault. “Serum sclerostin decreases following 12months of resistance- or jump-training in men with low bone mass.” Bone, 2017; 96: 85 DOI: 10.1016/j.bone.2016.10.011.