Distance Running May Help Improve Bone Density, Study Finds

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Regularly going for a nice long jog now might save you a broken calcaneus (or heel) bone when you’re older, a recent study suggests. Researchers from Madrid's Camilo José Cela University (UCJC) have found that endurance running can help increase the density of your heel bone, which plays an important role in walking and running. Since our bones often become weaker with age, researchers believe running may be a useful way to help prevent injury.

The study, which was published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, used densitometries (bone density tests) to compare the bone density of 122 marathon runners, 81 half-marathon and 10 km runners, and a control group of sedentary individuals in the same age group. Researchers found that endurance runners of both genders had a greater stiffness or rigidity index (a variable related to bone density) than members of the sedentary control group.

“It was also possible to confirm a dose-response relationship, meaning that greater amounts of training correspond to a greater improvement in the mineral density of the calcaneus,” researcher Beatriz Lara explained.

It’s important to note, however, that the study only looked at the density of the heel bone. While the calcaneus is important for mobility, additional studies are needed to determine whether endurance running could help strengthen other bones. Considered alongside other studies connecting running with positive mental and physical health, meanwhile, the UCJC research makes a pretty convincing case for lacing up our sneakers and hitting the pavement a little more often.