If you’re in the “an-hour-or-it-doesn’t-count” camp when it comes to exercise, consider this: a recent study found that just one minute of running per day had big bone-building benefits for women. So if lack of time has been your go-to workout excuse, get ready to lace up your sneakers and get moving.
Researchers from the University of Exeter and the University of Leicester found that women who did brief bursts of high-intensity, weight-bearing activity for just 60 to 120 seconds a day had 4% better bone health than women who did less than a minute (and women who did more than two minutes had 6% better bone health). If you’re wondering what a “high-intensity, weight-bearing activity” looks like in the real world, the scientists define it as the equivalent of a medium-paced run for premenopausal women, or a slow jog for postmenopausal women.
Why a One-Minute Workout Matters To You
Bone health is a big deal, especially for women. “Osteoporosis, or ‘thinning of the bones,’ is the leading cause of major fractures of the hip, back, and wrist as we get older,” says One Medical primary care doctor Malcolm Thaler, MD. “Women, as they age past menopause, are particularly susceptible, but men are at risk too as they get older. The healthier your bones are when you are young, the better they will stand up to the effects of aging and will better resist becoming weak and brittle.”
But before you cancel your gym membership, it’s important to read the fine print: researchers still have a lot of unanswered questions when it comes to their findings. Because the study is cross-sectional (meaning it analyzed data from a subset of the population at one specific point in time), it’s hard to say whether the one-minute workouts led to better bone health or if people with stronger bones just tend to do more of that kind of exercise.
How to Reap the Most Bone-Building Benefits
While experts are still working out the exact association, one thing is for sure: exercise makes a major difference when it comes to building healthy bones, and any amount of activity is a good idea. So what kind of workout is best?
“Strength training with weights has proven time and time again to help people build and maintain healthy bone density,” says Tarquin Thornton-Close, a certified personal trainer at Triptych Strength,. “Load bearing exercises done in a safe and progressive manner can especially help aging women avoid or improve osteoporosis.” And if pumping iron isn’t for you, know that “load-bearing exercise” can include anything from walking and jogging to climbing stairs and dancing.
If you’re looking for other surefire ways to boost your bone health, take a look at what’s on your plate. “Your diet can make a big difference,” Thaler says. “Because calcium is an important component of the mineral structure of your bones, you want to eat foods rich in calcium, such as low-fat dairy products, green leafy vegetables and almonds.”
But as for exercise, the final word for now seems to be that while more is more for better bones, any amount is a good idea. “It’s almost a certainty that the more you exercise, the more your bones will benefit,” Thaler says. “And if you’re not into heart-pounding exercise, a good walk every day will do the job.”
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.