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Build Bones with Every Bounce

Written by Rita Kennen

Jump! says a health researcher who's developed a new approach to exercise for preventing osteoporosis.

Jump rope with your kids; tumble on a trampoline or just jump for joy. Simple vertical jumping is one of the best methods of preventing osteoporosis.

Jumping builds bone mass. Thinning bone causes osteoporosis.
Bone is fortified by an impact equal to three times body weight.
Most hip and spine fractures are caused by falls.
Many aging women die during the convalescence that follows a hip fracture.
Other bone builders include step aerobics, climbing stairs, racquetball, basketball, volleyball, dancing.

Bones need to be surprised, explains Christine Snow, director of bone research at Oregon State University. "Jumping sends force at a fast rate to the hips," Snow says. "Force delivered quickly to the hips appears to increase bone at this site."

"You need to do something you don't normally do, and most people in their 30s and 40s don't jump," continues Snow. During a one-year study, Snow observed the benefits of jumping and lower resistance training on bone mineral density in the hips and spines of 63 healthy, premenopausal women.

In her study, 37 of the women wore weighted vests and did exercises such as jumps, squats and front and back lunges for 40 minutes 3 times a week. Twenty-six didn't exercise at all. After a year, the women who exercised showed a 2½ percent improvement in hip mineral density compared to the women who didn't exercise.

"What also changed for the exercisers was muscle mass, balance and leg power. All these factors influence fractures," adds Snow.

Look before you leap

Snow advises you begin with something simple, like deep knee bends while watching TV. Be conscious of your form: Make sure your knees are over your toes. Work up to doing 50 at a time.

Move from the deep knee bends to jumping. Do a set of 10, and rest. Work yourself up to 50 jumps, five days a week.

How soon will your bones respond?

Don't expect immediate results. According to Snow, older bone takes longer to respond. She says, "In a year you might not see anything, but five years later it can really make a difference in building bone density and preventing fractures."

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