Aging changes the body in some interesting ways. One of the most unusual is that the body weakens the bones as adults age. This happens when the body takes phosphates and calcium from the bones to be used elsewhere. This is a problem because it leaves the bones more brittle. It’s essentially the cause of osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is of particular concern in women, but it can affect all older people to some extent. Luckily, research has demonstrated that there are ways to prevent and limit this problem. Taking vitamins and mineral supplements is one thing that helps. Another is exercise, especially high-impact and resistance.
Recent research in mice has demonstrated the benefits of running, climbing, and jumping in preventing bone density loss. These activities increase the production of bone marrow components that help stave off illness and signs of aging. Stromal cells appear to be one big part of this process. They produce osteocytes or new bone cells. They also impact the production of immune system-related cells.
This study, conducted at UT Southwestern, suggests that older humans can continue to produce new bone cells, too. Mouse models are often used in studies because, as mammals, they have a lot in common with human beings. Uncovering this information is an exciting development for doctors and for anyone who wants to maintain their bone health as they get older. Of course, further research will be necessary to understand why exercise helps aging human bodies.
There is one reason that researchers believe that this process must be similar in people. Bone density in astronauts decreases while they’re in space. There’s no resistance as on Earth because there’s no gravity. When people return from orbit, their bones are less dense, and their immune systems are less effective. This seems to track with what has been observed in the mice in this study.
Strength training has long been recommended as a preventative against osteoporosis. You can easily try bodyweight exercises such as pushups and plyometrics; you can even try lifting weights, and using resistance bands is another example. Even swimming can be beneficial. Water offers much more resistance than air. It’s crucial as you age to remember to stay active and live a healthy lifestyle.