Just a minute or two of running every day could strengthen your bones, new research suggests.
British scientists found that women who engage in “brief bursts” of any high-intensity, weight-bearing physical activity had 4 percent better bone health than their less active peers.
“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,” said study author Victoria Stiles. She’s a senior lecturer in Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Exeter.
“But there’s a clear link between this kind of high-intensity, weight-bearing exercise and better bone health in women,” Stiles said in a university news release.
For the study, the researchers compared data on more than 2,500 women. The women wore monitors for one week to track their activity levels, and underwent ultrasounds of their heel bones to assess their bone health.
“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,” Stiles said. “We were careful not to ignore short bursts of activity throughout the day.”
Women who exercised intensely for more than two minutes each day had 6 percent better bone health. For younger women, this was the equivalent of a medium-paced run. For postmenopausal women, this meant a slow jog, the researchers said.
Since the findings are based on a particular group of women at a specific point in time, it’s unclear if the intense physical activity improved the women’s bone health or if women with stronger bones tend to do more of this type of exercise. So, the study did not prove that running causes bone health to improve.
“However, it seems likely that just one to two minutes of running a day is good for bone health,” Stiles said.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation provides more information on women’s bone health .