This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
A study finds that two minutes of hopping per day can improve the strength of hip bones and decrease the risk of hip fracture in the elderly. Researchers say the discovery has enormous implications for preventing osteoporosis, a disorder that affects 54 million Americans.
Osteoporosis is the thinning of bones that occurs in aging. The condition weakens the skeleton and increases the likelihood of broken bones in a fall. A non-drug intervention that improves bone density is welcome news to anyone afflicted with this disorder.
Hopping Improved Bone Mass Up to 7% in One Year
“Hip fractures are a major public health concern among older adults, incurring both high economic and social costs. Those affected suffer pain, loss of mobility and independence, and increased risk of death,” says researcher Dr. Sarah Allison. “We know exercise can improve bone strength and so we wanted to test a form of exercise that is both easy and quick for people to achieve in their homes.”
In the study led by Loughborough University, 34 men between the ages of 65 and 80 performed hopping exercises on a randomly assigned leg only. The hopping involved movements in different directions so the entire hip bone could receive the stress and resulting benefit. Participants were asked to refrain from making changes in their physical activity or dietary habits during the yearlong testing period.
At the conclusion of the trial, CT scans revealed clear differences between the exercise and control legs. The bone mass of some areas of the outer shell of the hip, as well as the density of the spongy bone underneath, increased up to 7 percent. Improvements were in the thinnest parts of the bone most vulnerable to fractures in a fall.
Hopping Compares Favorably to Gains from Osteoporosis Drugs
“In percentage terms, the improvements we saw in these healthy men after just one year of hopping compare favorably to bone gains induced by osteoporosis drugs in women with fragile hips,” notes Dr. Ken Poole, who led the bone mapping analysis at Cambridge. “However, we don’t yet know if men and women with osteoporosis would get the same benefits, or even whether the exercises would be safe for them to do, which are important research questions.”
One Precaution: Start Slowly
Lead researcher Dr. Katherine Brooke-Wavell points out the hopping was thoroughly supervised and cautions that it’s important to increase any exercise gradually. Anyone attempting this should be careful because hopping can cause a fall in people with poor balance and thin bones. In the study, the participants were asked to hop rather than jump, so comparisons could be made between legs. In implementing this at home, jumping would be more advisable than hopping, as it exercises both legs at the same time and is somewhat safer. Jump in a place where you can hold onto something stable.