One of the biggest challenges women face after menopause due to hormonal changes is osteoporosis – a medical condition where bones become too brittle, weak and fragile. A little physical activity weekly can, however, go a long way towards protecting women’s bones at older age.
Just two hours of exercise every week for pre-menopausal women can decrease the release of sclerostin, a protein that is known to inhibit bone formation. It also increasing levels of another protein, insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), which enhances bone formation, suggests new research from the King Abdulaziz University, Saudi Arabia. The new study is published in October’s issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (JCEM)
“Physical activity is good for bone health and results in lowering sclerostin, a known inhibitor of bone formation and enhancing IGF-1 levels, a positive effector on bone health” Mohammed-Salleh M. Ardawi, a professor at the Center of Excellence for Osteoporosis Research and at KAU and lead researcher for the study, said in a press release.
The researchers randomly selected 1,235 pre-menopausal women were studied, and 58 of them were followed up over an 8 week physical activity training, to study what effect exercise will have on them. They found women who had more than two hours a week of physical activity showed a decrease in sclerostin secretion by 36.8% and an increase in IGF-1 by 107% compared to women leading a sedentary lifestyle.
Bone production is dynamic and constatly changing. Sclerostin is produced by osteocytes, the most abundant cells in bones. When osteocytes produce this glycoprotein, it migrates to the surface of the bone and inhibits the creation of cells that help bones develop. IGF-1, on the other hand, has growth-promoting effects on almost all tissues in the body, including bones.
“Physical activity training is conceptually simple, inexpensive, and can serve practical purposes including reducing the risk of low bone mass, osteoporosis, and consequently fractures,” said Ardawi. “Our study found that even minor changes in physical activity were associated with clear effects on serum levels of sclerostin, IGF-1 and bone turnover markers.”
However, research at the King Saud University, Saudi Arabia, published earlier this year in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism suggested that Saudi Arabian women get less physical activity compared to women elsewhere, mainly due to social restraints placed on them.
Ardawi, M.S.et al. Physical Activity in Relation to Serum Sclerostin, Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1, and Bone Turnover Markers in Healthy Premenopausal Women: A Cross-Sectional and a Longitudinal Study. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism doi:10.1210/jc.2011-3361 (2012)
Al-Eisa, E. and Al-Sobayel, H. Physical Activity and Health Beliefs among Saudi Women. Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism doi:10.1155/2012/642187 (2012)