Could you exercise for 2 minutes each day?

By naturopath Margaret Jasinska

That’s really not asking a lot, and the benefits will surprise you! Almost everyone can exercise for two minutes a day, and if you keep it up for years, you’ll strengthen your bones and reduce the risk of fractures.

A study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research showed that hopping for two minutes per day can significantly reduce the risk of hip fracture in older people.

Osteoporosis is a major worldwide problem. According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation someone in the world has an osteoporotic fracture every 3 seconds. As we age, our bones get thinner. In the hip bones, this thinning can lead to a higher risk of hip fractures. Fracturing a hip can cause a significant deterioration in health for an older person and shorten their lifespan.

Researchers from Loughborough University in the UK conducted what they called the Hip Hop study. It showed that regular high impact exercise can help to counteract the effects of aging on bones. The researchers asked 34 men over the age of 65 to hop for 2 minutes every day for one whole year. The men only hopped on one leg, so the bone density of their other leg could be used for comparison.

The results were quite impressive. Bone mass increased by up to 7 percent in areas of the exercised hip’s outer shell (cortex). The participants also experienced increases in the density of the layer of spongy bone underneath the cortex. The beneficial effects were also seen in the thinnest parts of the hip bone; these are the areas most likely to suffer a fracture during a fall.

Exercise is so vital for maintaining bone strength and mobility as we age. Hopping for two minutes each day is achievable for most people, as long as it’s done in a safe way to minimize the risk of falls. If you are not able to hop, try raising yourself up onto your toes and then dropping down onto your heels with a thud. That is also considered weight bearing exercise and can improve bone density if done consistently over the long term.

What else can you do to strengthen your bones?

  • Make sure you get enough vitamin D. The best way to know is to ask your doctor for a vitamin D blood test. An ideal blood level is between 100 and 150nmol/L. Vitamin D is found in very few foods. Most people obtain it via sunshine and taking a supplement.
  • Ensure your diet is not lacking important minerals such as calcium, magnesium, boron, manganese, zinc, copper and vitamin K. Calcium Complete tablets contain nutrients required for strong bones.
  • Don’t eat too much fibre. We’re usually told to increase the amount of fibre in our diet. That’s not always best for each person. Fibre can aggravate some gut conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Fibre can also impair mineral absorption. You won’t absorb as much calcium, zinc, magnesium, copper and other minerals if there’s a lot of fibre in your gut at the same time. The fibre in grains, legumes, nuts and seeds is most problematic. Fibre in vegetables and fruits is better.
  • Low intake of vitamin C can weaken the collagen that gives bone its flexibility, so make sure there’s plenty in your diet or take a supplement.
    Vitamin K is important. It is found in dark green leafy vegetables, egg yolks, the fermented soy food called “natto”, moldy cheese, oily fish and liver. Vitamin K2 is the more bioactive form and it’s only found in animal foods. Good bacteria in your intestines can manufacture it but many people are missing adequate levels of these good bugs.
  • Medications such as long term corticosteroids, antacids (which prevent adequate production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach), some anticoagulants and some anti-convulsant medications can lead to bone loss.
  • Undiagnosed coeliac disease and bowel diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome can significantly impair nutrient absorption, compromising bone strength. If you have one of these conditions and are not happy with the treatment you’re receiving, seek another opinion.
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