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One minute of running a day equals better female bone health

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A single minute of exercise each day is linked to better bone health in women, according to UK researchers.

They found those who did “brief bursts” of high-intensity, weight-bearing activity equivalent to a medium-paced run for pre-menopausal women, or a slow jog for post-menopausal women, had better bone health.

“It seems likely that just one to two minutes of running a day is good for bone health”

Victoria Stiles

Using data from UK Biobank, researchers from the universities of Exeter and Leicester found that women who on average did 60-120 seconds of high-intensity, weight-bearing activity per day had 4% better bone health than those who did less than a minute.

The researchers looked at data on more than 2,500 women, and compared activity levels – measured by wrist-worn monitors – with bone health – measured by an ultrasound scan of heel bone.

As well as finding 4% better bone health among women who did one to two minutes of high-intensity, weight-bearing exercise, they found 6% better bone health among those who did more than two minutes a day.

Lead study author Dr Victoria Stiles, from Exeter University, said: “We don’t yet know whether it’s better to accumulate this small amount of exercise in bits throughout each day or all at once, and also whether a slightly longer bout of exercise on one or two days per week is just as good as one to two minutes a day.

“But there’s a clear link between this kind of high-intensity, weight-bearing exercise and better bone health in women,” she said.

She noted that due to the nature of the study it was not possible to be sure whether the physical activity led to better bone health, or whether those with better bone health did more exercise.

“However, it seems likely that just one to two minutes of running a day is good for bone health,” said Dr Stiles.

She added that the data from UK Biobank – taken from monitors worn for a week – was broken down into single seconds to understand how people go about their daily activities.

“We wanted to make every second count in our analysis, because short snippets of high-intensity activity are more beneficial to bone health than longer, continuous periods,” she said. “We were careful not to ignore short bursts of activity throughout the day.”

The study findings are published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

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