I walk my dog every morning for 40 minutes. After we take the required pauses for her to do her outdoor doggy functions, we maintain a fairly brisk pace. On many days this walk is my chief form of exercise. And in my office, during each patient’s visit, I ask about her exercise routine. I’m usually satisfied if she says that she’s walking briskly for more than 30 minutes a day. So of course, I was intrigued by a review article that appeared in the medical journal Menopause titled ” Effects of walking on the preservation of bone mineral density in perimenopausal and postmenopausal women: a systematic review and meta-analysis.”
Brisk walking has been shown to decrease the risk of diseases such as congestive heart failure, stroke, some cancers, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. It also burns calories and helps maintain healthy weight. The authors of this review article reviewed over 229 articles that were potentially relevant regarding the association of walking and bone density. They found 90 walking trials which they then evaluated but 80 of them did not have a non-exercise control group, the appropriate age women, bone mineral density data or did not separate walking from other forms of exercise. So in the end they had 10 walking trials that they could review appropriately. (Such is the long and tedious type of statistical analysis that is needed in order to write review articles… Hours and hours of reading, comparing and eliminating not to mention the need to go to the bathroom.)
There were two tables and seven figures that were included in this article and I’ll spare you all of them and get to the conclusions: Walking when done as a singular exercise seems to have no significant effect on BMD (bone mineral density) at the lumbar spine (lower portion of the spine), the radius (bone in the arm) or for the whole body in either perimenopausal or postmenopausal women. However, and this is the good however, the statisticians found that there were significant and positive effects on the BMD of the femoral neck i.e. the hip… if the women maintained this form of exercise for more than six months.
Although the study did not include a report on the incidence of fracture, the results offer “hip encouragement”. (My daughters would hate this last attempt at humor). We know that there is a significant correlation between loss of bone density in the hip and osteoporotic hip fracture. The latter is a major cause for disability and mortality. So I’ll keep walking briskly for my heart, my brain, my dog and hopefully my hips. Weight resistant exercise (Pilates, weight training, workouts with bands etc.) will help maintain muscle and bone in the other areas of our bodies. Once more – exercise, even walking, makes us healthier and stronger!
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