Reduce Your Risk for Fractures
Leisure-type physical activity in middle age can drop your risk of breaking a bone.
You already know that exercise has innumerable benefits, including better cardiovascular fitness, improvement of many metabolic factors, a reduction in cancer risk, and an enhanced sense of well-being. As a radiation oncologist, I often recommend regular weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening physical activity and balance training to reduce falling risk.
Unfortunately, it has been difficult to understand the effects of physical activity on bone density, risk of falling, and fractures. Studies addressing these issues are remarkably variable in design.
Now we have a large prospective study from Sweden that gives us good proof that moderate-intensity leisure-time physical activity can drop our risk of having a fracture in middle age.
Rogmark and colleagues analyzed over 30,000 participants in the Malmö Diet and Cancer study. The subjects had an average of 58 years. Each gave blood samples and questionnaires about health and lifestyle habits. Of the group, 27 percent (of which 73 percent were women) had at least one bone break during the median 21 year follow-up period. The common fractures occurred in the lower arm and hand, followed by hip fractures and lower limb fractures.
Here are the key takeaways:
- Any amount of leisure-time activity above the lowest quintile reduced the fracture risk by 8 percent. Every increase in physical activity in middle age was associated with a drop in fracture risk in the follow-up period.
- Participating in heavy work increased the risk of fracture. This may be due to occupational injuries.
- Risk factors for fracture included older age, female sex, body mass index, prior fracture, and reported family history of fracture after age 50. Other risk factors included low leisure-time activity, heavy work, living alone, smoking, and no or high alcohol consumption.
Keeping active is good for your bones. This large prospective study from Sweden reminds us that moderate-intensity leisure-time physical activity drops the risk of bone fractures. You know what you need to do.