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Older people urged to 'hop more' to reduce fracture risk

The Hip Hop study measured the effect of daily hopping exercises in 34 men over 65 Photo: Zak Hussein/PA Archive/PA Images

Two minutes of hopping a day can significantly reduce the risk of bone fractures after a fall, a Loughborough University-led study has found.

The 'Hip Hop study' measured the effect of daily hopping exercises in 34 men aged over 65, and showed that bone density in the leg used for hopping improved after one year.

Increases of up to 7% were identified in the bone mass of some parts of the leg but it also showed that there were improvements in the thinnest areas of the bone most at risk of fracture after a fall.

Bones thin naturally with age, and localised thinning in the hip is associated with an increased risk of hip fracture. The Hip Hop study has shown regular exercise can help counteract the effects of ageing to the bone.

Loughborough University Credit: Loughborough University

In percentage terms, the improvements we saw in these healthy men after just one year of hopping compare favourably to bone gains induced by osteoporosis drugs in women with fragile hips.

However, we don’t yet know if men and women with osteoporosis would get the same benefits, or even whether the exercises would be safe for them to do, which are important research questions.

– Dr Ken Poole, consultant rheumatologist

Hopping was selected over jumping to ensure comparisons could be made between legs, with participants performing a series of daily exercises.

Hip fractures are a major public health concern among older adults, incurring both high economic and social costs. Those affected suffer pain, loss of mobility and independence, and increased risk of death.

We know exercise can improve bone strength and so we wanted to test a form of exercise that is both easy and quick for people to achieve in their homes.”

– Dr Sarah Allison,
A prototype of an artificial hip joint Credit: Jens BÃŒttner/DPA/Press Association Images

CT scans, taken at University Hospitals Leicester, were analysed by a novel bone mapping technique developed at the University of Cambridge and showed clear visual differences between the exercise and control legs.

Our volunteers were screened, and built up the exercises gradually. It is important to exercise carefully, as falling could cause a fracture in someone with weak bones.

However, over time, our study shows that brief hopping or jumping exercises that target specific regions of the hip, could increase bone strength and reduce the chances of hip fracture.

– Dr Katherine Brooke-Wavell, Loughborough University

Osteoporosis affects an estimated three million people in the UK.