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Did you know that there is fat in your bones? It’s a mystery—scientists don’t know why it’s there, or when it’s good or bad for us.

Always remember that a lower number on the scale isn’t the same as fitness

They do know it is related to osteoporosis, although not how. This fat—called “marrow adipose tissue”–is also related to obesity. A May, 2017 study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research found that exercise can dramatically reduce marrow adipose tissue in mice.

A team of researchers at the University of North Carolina, in Chapel Hill, and the State University of New York, in Stony Brook, put fourteen baby mice on a diet to make them obese and fourteen on a low-fat diet for three months.  For six weeks, both sets of mice were split between an exercise plan and no exercise.

Making the mice obese increased their marrow adipose tissue by 44 percent. When they exercised, it dropped around that amount. Another good finding: their bone density went up. The mice fed a low-fat diet lost marrow adipose tissue when they exercised, too.

My conclusion won’t astonish you. I think this research suggests that mice, like humans, do well on the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program, which includes a low-fat diet combined with exercise.

Here are some more tips to take care of your bones.

Get Moving

Those little mice did a lot of running, but you don’t need to run marathons, or run at all, to improve your bone health.

Start with brisk walking if you’ve been sedentary. Moving more than you did yesterday and the day before is a great start.

Build up to your goal of an enjoyable, challenging aerobic workout at least three times a week. During each session, for at least twenty minutes, push yourself so your heart rate is elevated and your breathing more intense. You’ll know you’re there if you’re sweating and feel invigorated afterwards. If you’re a brisk walker looking for more of a challenge, find a path with some hills.

Challenge Your Bones

Throughout your life, your bones repair themselves and change to meet your needs, a process called “bone remodeling.” If you don’t use your bones and muscles, they will shrink. We see this in a big way when people go on bed rest or live in space capsules.

Bones and muscles shrink naturally as we age, so to stay strong, we have to push back. That’s why strength-training is essential, for both women and men. Do weight-bearing routines at least twice a week. The pressure will push your bones to get thicker and stronger, and they’ll be less likely to break if you fall.

Some aerobically fit people forget about bone and muscle strength and learn later that they’ve limited their performance.  If you’re an avid cyclist, I recommend also running, hiking, or other exercise that puts weight on your legs. This should also support your cycling.

We all need to cover our bases and mix things up. Outdoor walking trails with work-out stations are ideal. At home kettle bell routines can also keep you on track because they force you to use your whole body.

Don’t Fear Bulk

In our culture, women, especially, are urged to be slim and delicate in appearance. Always remember that a lower number on the scale isn’t the same as fitness. You want to be lean, and strong, with a low ratio of fat to muscle and bone. Research now suggests you’re better off with less of a certain kind of fat within those bones. Although we’re in the early days of understanding the role of marrow adipose tissue in our overall system, it’s clearly important.

The body is complex, with parts that affect each other in ways we barely grasp. As science gets closer to understanding the ways our different parts affect one another, feel good now knowing that if you challenge your heart, muscles and bones – in a good workout, you’ll feel the difference, and you’ll be healthier and happier.

What can you do to build your bone strength?

Contributed by

Phil Hardesty
Exercise Physiologist

Have a healthy, happy and fit week!!

Better Health Begins With You...

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