If you’re debating signing up for that half or full marathon, here’s a reason to pull the trigger: Training to compete in endurance races can improve your bone’s health, according to a new study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology.
The researchers tested the bone densities of the right and left feet of 122 male and female marathon runners and 81 half marathon and 10K runners, and compared them against a control group of same-aged sedentary individuals. They found that both male and female endurance runners had a greater stiffness index—a variable directly related to bone quality—than the non-active folks. And the greater the race distance trained for the better, the study authors say. (Science says marathon training can also boost your brain.)
This isn’t to say that everyone should run out and become a long distance runner, cautions Kirk A. Campbell, M.D., a sports medicine surgeon and assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery at NYU Langone Medical Center. After all, this study didn’t report on a potentially serious downside to endurance running: the injuries these runners are more susceptible to, Campbell says. (Psst… Check out 8 Common Running Myths, Busted.)
While any type of weight-bearing exercise is recommended to maintain bone density and reduce osteoperosis, excessive running can lead to the opposite problem of stress fractures, seconds Alexis Colvin, M.D., an orthopaedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Not to mention, the study only looked at the density of the heel bone, and not other bones that are typically measured for osteoporosis, such as the hip or lumbar spine, she explains.
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