Everyone knows regular exercise is good for your heart, maintaining a healthy weight and building strong muscles. Exercise also helps improve your mood and enhance your sex life. Weight-bearing exercise and weight training have also been shown to improve flexibility, joint strength and bone density.
And, now, recent research, published in the American Journal of Men’s Health, has revealed that older men who participated in high-impact sports in their youth have greater bone mass in their hips and lumbar spine than those men who didn’t participate in high-impact sports. The research was limited to men, but it’s highly likely older women would have the same kind of positive results from playing high-impact sports in their teens and as young adults.
Post-menopausal women are commonly associated with a greater risk for osteoporosis than older men. Could the reason possibly be because many young women in past generations did not play as many high-impact sports, such as soccer, gymnastics or basketball, as today’s younger women?
Osteoporosis, however, is just as a serious a heath issue for men as it is for women. In fact, the consequences for men can be much worse, since many doctors aren’t looking at the possibility of a diagnosis for men until it’s too late. Older men, for example, have a higher mortality rate than women from fractures as a result of falling.
What are high-impact sports? They are any activity that that places stress on weight-bearing joints – foot, knee and hip. They include the traditional male sports such as football and baseball, as well as field hockey for women. They also include such activities as jogging, handball, racquetball, karate and aerobics. Ballet and tap dancing, by the way, can also be counted as high-impact activity.
The more high-impact activities you participated in as an adolescent the stronger your bones will be as you age, but it’s never too late to get started. Studies have shown positive links between high-impact exercise and bone density no matter what the age. This means even middle-aged people who spent most of their life sitting around on the couch can start to help prevent osteoporosis by getting out for a walk or a jog, walk up stairs rather than taking an elevator or escalator, play some tennis or take adult dance lessons. Just make sure to start off easy and not push too hard.