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Most dudes don’t think about bone health. They may think about boner health, but not about the need to challenge and stress your skeleton to keep it strong throughout your life. After all, only old people have to worry about brittle bones and osteoporosis, right?
Not necessarily. Just as it’s important to stay on top of your cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength starting from a young(ish) age, it’s also imperative to incorporate exercises that build strong bones—and according to a new study, nothing beats lifting weights.
New research from the University of Missouri found that when you do weight-bearing exercises over the long term you promote bone formation and increase bone density in your body. In the study, researchers rounded up men aged 25–60 with low bone mass, and split them into two groups. One group lifted weights and did exercises like squats and lunges, while the other did more plyometric-inspired training, like single- and double-leg jumps.
After the 12–month protocol, the researchers found that both forms of training lowered the men’s levels of sclerostin (a protein that can negatively affect bone growth), and improved the men’s levels of IGF-1 (a hormone that turns on bone growth).
“People may be physically active, and many times people know they need to exercise to prevent obesity, heart disease, or diabetes,” said Pamela Hinton, Ph.D., associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri. “However, you also really need to do specific exercises to protect your bone health.” She suggests not getting stuck on one type of exercise (like cycling or swimming) that doesn’t put much stress on your skeleton. Instead, make sure your workout routine includes lots of diversity, with an emphasis on weight-bearing resistance exercises and jump training.
For a few ideas on how to mix up your training and get plenty of bone-building workouts in, check out these great Men’s Fitness-approved plyometrics moves.