It is estimated that nearly 16 million men have low bone mass and the lifetime fracture risk in men aged 60 or older is 25 percent. And yet, a report in Osteoporosis International indicated that more than 90 percent of men with osteopenia and osteoporosis-related fractures remain untreated. Even if men are treated with pharmacotherapy, there is a very low rate of compliance due to side effects of the medications.

This led researchers from the University of Missouri to examine the effects of a resistance training program and jump training on bone mineral density. In this randomized trial that lasted for one year, 19 men participated in resistance training two times per week and 19 men participated in jump training three times per week. All of the men were physically active but also had osteopenia of the hip or spine. Daily supplementation of vitamin D3 (400iu) and calcium (1200mg calcium carbonate) was given to all participants. Primary outcome measures included bone mineral density (BMD) and bone turnover markers (BTM). Secondary outcomes were related to safety and included pain and fatigue ratings.

The jump intervention varied in terms of intensity, direction, and type (e.g. single-leg, double-leg, squat jumps, jumps off a box) with no more than 100 jumps in a single training session. To minimize injury, jump training intensity increased slowly. Resistance training included exercises such as squats, lunges, modified dead lift, and calf raises. To build strength while reducing risk of injury, a progressive intensity design was used that increased the number of repetitions and weight.

After six months, whole body and lumbar spine BMD increased significantly in both groups and was maintained for the 12-month period. Total hip BMD only increased in the resistance-training group. Pain and fatigue ratings also improved in both groups and were very low throughout the study. Both resistance training and jumping were safely administered.

Given the lack of adherence and side effects associated with pharmaceutical interventions for osteopenia, it makes sense to “prescribe” exercise in the form of resistance training or jumping exercises. More research is needed to identify exactly which exercise regimen is best for each patient’s individual circumstances.

Hinton PS, Nigh P, Thyfault J. Effectiveness of resistance training or jumping-exercise to increase bone mineral density in men with low bone mass: A 12-month randomized clinical trial. Bone. 2015;79:203-212.