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Aerobic Exercise + Fish Oil = Stronger Bones

Posted Oct 21 2011 3:01am
We started this week with a post on osteoporosis so what better way to end it than with another post on this subject?  We know aerobic exercise is good for the heart  (among other things).  So is fish oil .  But what about your bones?  In a small, short randomized study published this week , the authors concluded that, indeed, the combination of aerobic exercise and fish oil improved bone mineral density and inflammatory markers in just 6 months.

In this randomized study, 79 post-menopausal Persian women were randomized to one of 4 groups: exercise + supplement, exercise alone, supplement alone, or control (neither exercise nor supplement).  Measurements were taken at baseline, 12 weeks, and 24 weeks.

The fish oil was a standard formulation of 1,000mg omega 3 fatty acids, of which 180mg was EPA and 120mg was DHA.  No placebo was offered.  Adherence was by pill count and measurement of serum levels.  Exercise (obviously no placebo there) consisted of 25-30 minutes sessions of walking or jogging 3-4 sessions per week at 45-55% of their individually calculated maximum heart rate for the first 12 weeks.  During the second 12 weeks, the participants increased their exercise to 40-45 minutes of walking or jogging 4-6 sessions per week at 55-65% of their calculated maximum heart rate.

Bone mineral density is known to take a long time to change (improve) so it's not surprising that no improvement was shown at the lumbar region after 12 weeks in any of the groups.  Therefore I found it surprising that by the end of 6 months, there was statistically significant improvement at the lumbar region after 24 weeks in the exercise + fish oil group.  Most surprising of all, the authors found statistically significant improvement at the femoral neck at both 12 and 24 weeks in this same group.  Compared to controls, those randomized to either exercise or supplements demonstrated intermediate improvements in bone mineral density at the femoral neck such that exercise and fish oil appear to be synergistic.

Today's take home point?  The combination of exercise and fish oil is good for your bones (and heart).  But you knew that already, didn't you?

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