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How Does Running Affect Bones?

By Chris Sherwood

Your bones along with your muscle tissue provide the strength and structure your body needs to have both shape and movement. However, as you grow older, your bones can weaken as part of the natural aging process. One way to help combat this effect is through regular exercises like jumping or running.

Bone Stress

Each stride you take when running creates stress on your bones as your feet touch the ground to propel you forward. This stress is higher on the bones than other daily activities like walking. Since bone is a living tissue, your body can sense the additional stress and bending from the load, and as a precaution activates a series of reactions to strengthen the bone to prevent injury to the bone tissue.

Bone Modeling

As stress is sensed by your body, osteoblasts are sent to the surface of the bone being affected. Osteoblasts are cells from which bone develops. As the osteoblasts migrate to the bone surface they start modeling the bone to strengthen it. A matrix of protein develops between the cells, causing the bone to increase in density. The greater the mineral density of the bone is, the stronger it becomes. This strength prepares the bone to more easily face the same amount of stress from running in the future.

Importance to Children

Children especially need running and other bone-strengthening activities, such as jumping rope or gymnastics, to help during the time where most physical development occurs. Building strong bones at a young age, as well as building healthy bone-building habits, can help a child maintain healthy bones throughout the rest of her life. As such, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that all children in the United States get at least an hour of physical activity each day, with at least three days a week focused on bone-building activities like running.

Recommendations for Adults

Adults can also benefit from regular bone-strengthening exercises like running. Adults can benefit from these activities by following the CDC recommended guideline of including 150 minutes of moderately intense to intense exercise each week. Along with running, adults can also strengthen bones through regular strength training or other aerobic activities like basketball that involve jumping.

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