Sedentary lifestyles have been linked to osteoporosis and weaker bones in later life. A new study by scientists from Durham and Newcastle universities has found that walking 10,000 steps a day is enough to minimise the risk of fractures in the over-60s.
The problem is more acute in men than women, as it was discovered that males tend to sit still for longer, and the effects can be seen most profoundly in their lower back. Fragility fractures are therefore a common concern for those who do not move around regularly as they age.
Anyone worried about an elderly relative should encourage them to do weight-bearing and muscle strengthening exercises. These activities can help to increase bone strength and decrease the likelihood of osteoporosis setting in.
This latest study is the first to prove that a sedentary lifestyle in men is linked to weaker bones and osteoporosis. It’s hoped that the research will lead to more people taking steps to reduce their vulnerability.
Fragility fractures are defined as being fractures that occur from a fall by a person at standing height or less. There are more than half a million incidents of such injuries reported in the UK every year and it’s predicted that by 2025 the rate of cases will have gone up by 27 per cent.
Dr Karen Hind, of the Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences at Durham University, said: “We know that excessive sedentary time can lower someone's metabolism which can lead to being overweight and Type 2 diabetes.
“What we now know is that being inactive is also associated with lower bone strength and an increased risk of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a disease that affects older people but by encouraging this age group to keep active, it will help improve their bone health.”
Those in the study were aged 62 and represented both sexes. They each wore a monitor for seven days to keep track of their physical activity and sedentary time. Their steps were recorded and marked against the number recommended by public health bodies.
To see how their activity levels affected their bone density, each of the participants then had their hips and spines scanned. The results showed that those doing 150 minutes of light physical activity a week had better bone strength than their more sedentary counterparts.
On average, the men spent 52 minutes a day sitting still, but those who weren’t moving for more than 84 minutes had a decreased bone density in their spine of 22 per cent. This equates to the same effect that being a smoker has on osteoporosis.
The research was carried out on individuals in the north east, where Public Health England says the biggest proportion of physically inactive adults live. Hip fracture rates are also higher in this part of the country than anywhere else in the UK.
In a bid to reaching the 10,000 steps-a-day goal, the scientists suggested introducing little life hacks. These include taking the stairs instead of the lift or escalator and parking the car a bit further away from the shops on a regular basis.