Could Stress Interfere With Your Bone-Building Efforts? The Science-Backed Answer Might Surprise You - Save Our Bones

A study has laid the groundwork for a deeper understanding of how mental stress can reduce the bone-building benefits of physical stress. Physical stress is the mechanical force applied to bone during physical exertion.

Today we'll dive into this research so you can fully understand why physical stress is so valuable, and how mental stress undermines its ability to build bone.

The Save Institute has always included mental stress reduction as essential for preventing and reversing osteoporosis. This research confirms that a holistic approach to bone health is the most effective and comprehensive approach.

Physical Stress And Mental Stress

Physical stress is a positive force when it comes to bone health. When applied to bone through exercise or weight-bearing activities, the mechanical loading of physical stress stimulates the growth of new bone mass, per Wolff’s Law. This is a foundational element of the mechanics of bone strength.

Mental, or psychosocial, stress can disturb the bone remodeling process. There are various types of mental stress and people respond to them differently. In all cases, there is a nervous system response that can engage certain parts of the brain including the hippocampus, the amygdala, and the brainstem, as well as an array of hormone-producing glands in the endocrine system.

When these systems are engaged too frequently or for too long, they can cause a variety of problems ranging from depression to rheumatoid arthritis.


Physical stress is the force applied to bone during physical exertion. It stimulates the growth of new bone. Mental stress is psychosocial stress or anxiety that causes a nervous system response. When this response is engaged too frequently or too often, it causes a variety of emotional and physical health problems.

How Mental Stress Impacts Bone Health

Depression and anxiety are established risk factors for bone loss, osteoporosis, and fracture.

Because these mental health issues have a variety of physiological and behavioral impacts, tracking exactly how they lead to bone health problems has proved difficult for researchers.

The researchers describe several known links between the effects of mental health and compounds associated with bone loss, including growth hormones, cortisol, and inflammatory cytokines.

Growth hormone is known to induce osteoblast proliferation. Osteoblasts are the cells responsible for producing new bone. Mental stress has been shown to reduce growth hormone production.

Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, inhibits osteoblast proliferation when levels are elevated. Mental stress is a major factor that leads to extended periods of high cortisol levels.

Inflammatory cytokines affect the bone remodeling process as well. Mental stress can disrupt the delicate balance of cytokines, resulting in suppressed osteoblast function,and the production and activation of more osteoclasts (the cells that remove old bone).


Mental health problems like depression and anxiety can cause changes in the levels of certain compounds such as growth hormone, cortisol, and inflammatory cytokines. These changes have been shown to disrupt healthy bone remodeling.

How Mental Stress Prevents Physical Stress From Stimulating Bone Growth

The study we’re reviewing today builds on previous knowledge by investigating how mental stress can alter the way our bones respond to physical stress. The scientists reviewed previous research that examined the response of bone cells to physical stress under different biochemical conditions, including the biochemical conditions created by mental stress.

One example is insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I), which is diminished by mental stress. This reduced IGF-I level has been shown to prevent osteoblast proliferation typically caused by physical stress.

This means that the bone-building benefits of physical stress were observed to be counteracted by the effects of mental stress.

The researchers reached the same conclusion when they considered the inflammatory conditions caused by mental stress. That state of inflammation inhibited the bone-building processes that would normally have been initiated by the mechanical loading of physical stress.


The study authors concluded that mental stress causes biochemical changes that can impede the bone-building benefits of physical stress.

What This Means To You

Your body, mind, and emotions are delicately interconnected. A change to one has a ripple effect across the others. The study shows how that ripple reaches all the way to your bones. This is a perfect example of why the Osteoporosis Reversal Program takes a holistic approach to preventing and reversing osteoporosis.

There are simple yet effective steps to protect the bone-building efficacy of your exercise routine by reducing mental stress. The Save Institute's online video workout platform SaveTrainer has a variety of offerings to help you do just that. Try a guided meditation video, a relaxation workout, or a yoga class to help you access the calming power of breath. SaveTrainer has the tools you need to apply positive physical stress and reduce harmful mental stress.

If you’re following a natural and holistic path to improve your bone health, then this study will come as no surprise. You should celebrate that you've been on the right track, and use that positive feeling to motivate your next steps on your journey to healthy, strong, and dependable bones.



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10 comments. Leave Yours Now →
  1. Julie Bates

    I had low adrenal function and have been taking bio identical cortef for five years. I have just had the disappointing news that I have more bone loss. I exercise and always have. Could the cortef be contributing?

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Julie, Cortef (hydrocortisone) is a steroid. These types of drugs both reduce the body’s ability to absorb calcium and increase bone resorption. Studies have shown that bone loss appears to be greatest in the first two to three months of corticosteroid use. The good news is that when steroid treatment is discontinued, bone health can improve. I hope your doctor can find an alternative treatment!

  2. Priscilla

    I really appreciate all the research you do for us, Vivian! This article shows me that we have to look at the big picture for our bones. Thank you!

  3. Sarah

    Very eye opening information! My sister lost her husband in a car accident last year and her dexa score got worse without making changes to the food she eats and her long walks. I will send her this article. Thanks!

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      I’m so sorry about your sister’s loss, Sarah! I hope this will help her and that you’ll take an active role in her improvement.

  4. Ghassan Mahir

    Dear Vivian
    Thanks for this very important article that highlights the negative effects of mental stress, not only directly, but also its detrimental effect on the benefits of exercising. Exercising and other physical activities even if will seem to do the job from the outside (muscles, for example) they will, nonetheless, go down the drain, even if partially, vis-a-vis bone building which is not obvious from the outside, therefore goes undetected.
    All those who suffer from bone-mass-related problems should be aware of this important piece of information.
    Best regards

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      My pleasure!

  5. Patricia

    Thank you, Vivian! I’ve been under much mental stress lately because my mom has been quite ill and in and out of the hospital. I will try mediation and relaxation workoust.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      You’re welcome, and I hope your mother will have a full recovery!

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