By Tim Locke
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD
Sept. 11, 2015 -- Hopping for 2 minutes a day can help bone health in older men, U.K. researchers say. The impact exercises help counteract the effects of aging in the bone, they claim, and that may mean hips are less likely to break after a fall.
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But the research team says it's too soon to recommend older people start hopping at home.
The Loughborough University research, called the Hip Hop study, was small, involving just 34 men over 65.
Osteoporosis is a condition that gradually weakens the bones, making broken bones more likely after a fall. The condition affects about 54 million Americans, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Bones thin naturally as we get older.
The researchers picked hopping on one leg as the exercise to use, rather than just jumping, so that accurate comparisons could be made between both legs of the volunteers.
Participants did the daily hopping exercises for a year. The exercises involved movements in different directions to distribute stresses and strains throughout the hip.
The participants got CT scans using a special bone-mapping technique to compare their legs before and after the hopping exercises.
The results were encouraging, researchers say, with clear visual evidence of improvements in the exercised legs. Overall hip-bone density increased 2.7% -- and up to 12% in some parts of the bone.
"Hip fractures are a major public health concern among older adults, incurring both high economic and social costs," researcher Dr. Sarah Allison says in a statement. Those affected have pain, loss of mobility and independence, and a higher risk of early death.
"We know exercise can improve bone strength, and so we wanted to test a form of exercise that is both easy and quick for people to achieve in their homes."
"In percentage terms, the improvements we saw in these healthy men after just one year of hopping compare favorably to bone gains induced by osteoporosis drugs in women with fragile hips," says consultant rheumatologist Dr. Ken Poole, who led the bone-mapping analysis at the University of Cambridge. "However, we don't yet know if men and women with osteoporosis would get the same benefits, or even whether the exercises would be safe for them to do, which are important research questions."
Lead researcher Dr. Katherine Brooke-Wavell cautions that the exercises were carefully supervised: "Our volunteers were screened, and built up the exercises gradually. It is important to exercise carefully, as falling could cause a fracture in someone with weak bones.
"However, over time, our study shows that brief hopping or jumping exercises that target specific regions of the hip could increase bone strength and reduce the chances of hip fracture."
SOURCES: Brooke-Wavell, K. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, September 2015. Press release, Loughborough University.
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