The hidden culprit behind brittle bones—and the pill-free way to tackle it head on

I can’t overstate this fact: Exercise is essential for good health. Obviously, it’s the No. 1 key to physical fitness, but its benefits don’t end there. If you want to stay strong and healthy throughout your life, you simply can’t do it without moving your body.

And that’s as true for strong bones as it is for strong muscles, weight management, and heart health, according to a recent study.

You see, the researchers found that exercise doesn’t just burn body fat, it also burns fat within the bone marrow.

While you may not see the difference in the mirror when fat melts from your bone marrow, it’s incredibly important for your health. That’s because bone marrow fat is directly linked to low bone density. And low bone density is to blame for countless age-related fractures — which have the potential to be catastrophic for older adults.

That explains why previous research has shown that the more marrow fat you have, the higher your risk for fractures and other bone-related problems.

Slash dangerous “bone fat” in half in just six weeks

In this study, lean mice and obese mice increased their exercise levels for six weeks. At the end of that period, both obese and lean mice had a serious reduction in amount of fat in their bone marrow.

The results for obese mice were most impressive, because after that short period of time, their marrow fat looked identical to that of lean mice. What’s more, the obese mice saw the total number of fat cells in their marrow cut in half.

The study also found that exercise increased bone thickness, particularly in obese mice.

Of course, research on mice is just a start. But this does offer an interesting and compelling perspective on one of the many ways exercise improves bone health.

So, suffice it to say, if you’re not exercising already, now’s the time to start — especially if you’re obese.

The best workout for building strong bones

In this study, the mice’s exercise consisted of running. The fact that cardiovascular exercise like running resulted in bone marrow fat loss is promising when it comes to bone density. But again, this preliminary research needs to be confirmed with more in-depth studies.

In the meantime, we can fall back on tried-and-true research that proves one type of exercise in particular boosts bone health. Weight-bearing has been shown to preserve bone density, which is why I recommend it for anyone who is concerned with maintaining strong bones.

In other words, everyone.

I generally recommend up to 120 minutes of weight-bearing exercise a week. Try starting with resistance bands, which serve as a cheap, easy-to-use, and convenient alternative to weights. You can pick up resistance bands at any big box store or sporting supply store. And a quick internet search will give you instructions on doing a full-body workout with them.

Bonus: Weight-bearing exercises don’t just address bone density, they also strengthen your muscles. And strong muscles are essential for balance — another key to fall (and fracture) prevention.



“Exercise Decreases Marrow Adipose Tissue Through ß-Oxidation in Obese Running Mice.” Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, 2017; DOI: 10.1002/jbmr.3159