Mechanical stimuli influence bone strength, with internal muscular forces thought to be the greatest stressors of bone. Consequently, the effects of exercise in improving and maintaining bone strength have been explored in a number of interventional studies. These studies demonstrate a positive effect of high-impact activities (i.e. where large muscle forces are produced) on bone strength, with benefits being most pronounced in interventions in early pubertal children. However, current studies have not investigated the forces acting on bones and subsequent deformation, preventing the development of optimised and targeted exercise interventions. Similarly, the effects of number and frequency of exercise repetitions and training sessions on bone accrual are unexplored. There are conflicting results as to gender effects on bone response to exercise, and the effects of age and starting age on the osteogenic effects of exercise are not well known. It also appears that exercise interventions are most effective in physically inactive people or counteracting conditions of disuse such as bed rest. Bone strength is only one component of fracture risk, and it may be that exercise resulting in improvements in, e.g., muscle force/power and/or balance is more effective than those whose effects are solely osteogenic. In summary, exercise is likely to be an effective tool in maintaining bone strength but current interventions are far from optimal.
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Conflict of interest
Alex Ireland, Jörn Rittweger and Hans Degens declare that they have no conflict of interest.
This review does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.
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Ireland, A., Rittweger, J. & Degens, H. The Influence of Muscular Action on Bone Strength Via Exercise. Clinic Rev Bone Miner Metab 12, 93–102 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12018-013-9151-4