Exercising after menopause may help reduce bone loss

05/20/04

CHICAGO –Early postmenopausal women with osteoporosis who participate in an intense exercise program may experience reduced bone loss, reduced back pain, and lower cholesterol levels, according to an article in the May 24 issue of The Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

According to information in the article, exercise can help prevent some of the negative consequences associated with menopause, such as bone loss, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, or chronic diseases, such as diabetes.

Wolfgang Kemmler, Ph.D., of the University of Erlangen, Germany, and colleagues investigated the effects of an intense exercise program on physical fitness, bone mineral density (BMD), back pain, and blood lipids (including cholesterol) in early postmenopausal women.

The researchers studied 50 early postmenopausal women (average age about 55 years) with osteoporosis who were not taking any medications and had no diseases that affect bone metabolism. These women (the exercise group) participated in an exercise program that lasted 26 months and consisted of two supervised group training sessions (lasting 60 to 70 minutes each) per week, and two non-supervised home training sessions (25 minutes each) per week. Another 33 women (average age about 55 years) made up the non-exercising control group. Both groups were given calcium and vitamin D supplements. Physical fitness, BMD, and blood lipid levels were assessed at the beginning and end of the study.

The researchers found that after 26 months, women in the exercise group were 36.5 percent more physically fit compared to when they started, vs. women in the control group, who were 1.7 percent more physically fit at the end of the study.

Measurements of BMD remained relatively stable for the exercise group, compared to decreases in BMD in the control group. Additionally, participants in the exercise group experienced less pain and had slightly reduced cholesterol levels compared to the control group.

"In this study we showed that a long-term multipurpose exercise program with emphasis on bone density not only offsets bone loss but also improves physical fitness and lower back pain and reduces some coronary heart disease risk factors in early postmenopausal women," the authors write.

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