Exercising on a regular basis has a huge number of benefits for all body systems, including your bones. Many times, these benefits manifest immediately after you begin an exercise program.
Unfortunately, the reverse is also true. When you stop exercising, a phenomenon called “detraining” occurs, where your body begins to lose the positive effects of exercise – sometimes very rapidly.
But there’s good news. Taking up regular exercise again (or taking it up for the first time) can bring the bone and whole-body benefits right back.
So today, we’ll take a look at five things that happen if you have “fallen off the wagon” or if you’re not exercising at all.
1. You’ll Get Out Of Breath Quickly
Few things make you feel more “out of shape” than getting winded early in your workout or worse, when you simply walk. This is a sign that the mitochondria in your muscle cells are not as plentiful as they were when you were exercising regularly, and it is vitally important for several reasons.
Mitochondria act as your cells’ organs, essentially. Called organelles, these tiny structures produce energy by breaking down carbohydrates and fatty acids and turning them into a substance that can be utilized by other cells in the body. This substance is called ATP, or adenosine triphosphate.
With the exception of red blood cells, mitochondria are found in every cell in the body, including your bone cells. Also, all the cells in your body use the energy provided by ATP to run every system, from the beating of your heart to the exchange of gases in your lungs. In fact, ATP is essential to all life.
Muscle cells contain the most mitochondria of any cell, because so much ATP is required for exercise and motion. In a process called “mitochondrial biogenesis,” mitochondria increase in number in response to exercise. This enables your muscle cells to produce more ATP, and enhances their take-up of glucose before and after exercise.
So it’s a bit of a “use them or lose them” scenario when it comes to these life-giving organelles. Chronic lack of exercise and aging both contribute to a decline in mitochondria, leading to cell death.
But as you might expect, regular exercise has the opposite, life-giving, bone-building effect. After all, mitochondria are also found in bone cells, and the action of healthy muscle on bone stimulates bone strength and renewal.
Running and walking are both excellent forms of weight-bearing, aerobic exercise that can get your mitochondria numbers up and keep you from getting winded so easily in the future.
2. Your Blood Pressure Goes Up
Remarkably, your blood pressure responds to your activity levels instantly – it’s actually lower on the days you exercise and higher on the days when you don’t. Researchers looked more deeply into this correlation when they studied the effects of exercise for six months followed by two weeks of “detraining” on the same group of participants.
The study concludes that:
“[…] subjects that decreased BP after exercise training, increased BP after detraining.”1
In fact, one of the study’s authors, Linda Pescatello, says that after a month of inactivity, your arteries and veins return to the state they were in before you started exercising.1
What you eat also has a significant effect on your blood pressure, as Savers know. Vitamin C intake in particular (at least 500 mg daily) is associated with decreased blood pressure, and since it’s a Foundation Supplement, you’re already getting plenty if you’re following the Program.2
Blood Pressure And Bone Health
Maintaining healthy blood pressure is actually essential to the health of your bones, because high blood pressure can damage your kidneys. Functional kidneys are necessary for maintaining the alkaline/acid balance in your body and for detoxifying your system.
If your kidneys are not in top shape, it becomes more difficult to balance your blood pH, which can lead to bone loss, as calcium and other alkalizing minerals are pulled from bone to neutralize the acidic environment. And if toxins build, this also damages bone.
3. Your Muscles Atrophy
When you cease to exercise, major muscle groups such as your quadriceps and biceps begin to atrophy, or wither. According to a study from the University of Copenhagen, significant decline in muscle mass occurs after just two weeks’ rest. In fact, the muscle fibers do not just atrophy; they actually change to a type of muscle fiber that fatigues faster.3
This has a profound effect on your bone health. One of the keys to building bone density through exercise is the action of healthy, strong muscle on bone. Atrophied muscles, of course, cannot exert enough pressure on bone to stimulate growth.
Maintaining muscle mass is so crucial to bone health, that the pH- balanced diet, as described in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program, actually promotes healthy muscles.
In fact, according to a 2008 study published in the The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition:
“Metabolic acidosis promotes muscle wasting.”4
The opposite, researchers found, is also true. When 384 study subjects 65 years or older ate a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, their muscle mass increased by 2.6 to 3.6 percent.
The study concludes that:
“Higher intake of foods rich in potassium, such as fruit and vegetables, may favor the preservation of muscle mass in older men and women,”4
4. Your Blood Sugar Rises
Glycemic control is a balancing act performed by your body every day. After eating, your blood sugar rises and then falls as your cells utilize the glucose. If you’re sedentary for three days or more, though, your blood sugar spikes and stays high long after you eat, according to a 2012 study.
“[…] daily physical activity is an important mediator of glycemic control, even among healthy individuals.”5
Young, healthy volunteers had their blood glucose monitored for a two-part study. In the first phase, the volunteers ate and exercised as usual. For three days, the glucose monitors showed no blood sugar spikes after meals.
However, during Phase 2 of the study, participants cut back on their activity levels in many small but significant ways (they had their meals delivered, for example, or took the elevator instead of the stairs). Participants also stopped their regular exercise routines.
After three days , the participants’ glucose monitors showed a startling 26% increase in blood sugar after meals. What’s more, the rise in blood sugar continued steadily over the three days the volunteers were sedentary.5
This sheds light not only on the effect of inactivity on the development of Type II diabetes; it also shows yet another way that lack of exercise harms bones. Sugar is very damaging to bones, and high levels in the blood can have deleterious effects on bone density.
Sugar decreases levels of key bone-building minerals such as copper, calcium, and magnesium. It also negatively affects the immune and nervous systems.
5. Your Mood Darkens
Given the well-known positive effects of exercise on mood, it stands to reason that a lack of exercise would have the opposite effect.
A meta-analysis of 32 studies clearly showed that:
“[…] exercise is associated with improved mood in the elderly.”6
Fatigue and negative feelings increase when activity decreases, while exercise keeps energy levels up and reduces depression-causing stress.
Reducing stress is actually a key component in maintaining bone health, and regular exercise is an excellent way to do that. Stress can, in fact, have a profound impact on your bones in multiple ways. For example, stress induces sugar cravings, and as we’ve just seen, sugar hurts your bones. In addition, stress increases cortisol, can induce exhaustion and cause back pain, weight gain, poor memory, and even hair loss.
Exercise Is The Answer To A Better Quality Of Life
The evidence is clear: to obtain optimal quality of life, regular exercise is vital. Exercise affects all body systems for the better – boosting mood, regulating blood pressure and blood sugar, increasing muscle mass, and preventing fractures. There’s just no substitute for regular workouts.
The Densercise™ Epidensity Training System is a program designed to keep you moving and to build your bones. The variety and simplicity help keep you motivated, and the moves themselves are challenging enough to build your bones and strengthen your muscles.
Densercise™ does not require any special equipment and is appropriate for all fitness levels and ages.
It’s really quite amazing…something as simple as exercise can make all the difference for your health and your bones. It’s my hope that if you’re not exercising now, today’s post will inspire and motivate you to get started.
Take Exercising For Your Bones to the Next Level!
Learn the 52 exercise moves that jumpstart bone-building – all backed by the latest in epigenetics research.
1 Moker, Emily A., et al. “The Relationship between the Blood Pressure Responses to Exercise following Training and Detraining Periods.” PLoS. September 10, 2014. Doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0105755. Web. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0105755
2 Juraschek, Stephen P., et al. “Effects of vitamin C supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. April 4, 2012. Doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.027995. Web. https://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/95/5/1079.full
3 Vigelso, Andreas, et al. “Six weeks’ aerobic retraining after two weeks’ immobilization restores leg lean mass and aerobic capacity but does not fully rehabilitate leg strength in young and older men.” Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine. April 21, 2015. Doi: 10.2340/16501977-1961. Web. https://www.medicaljournals.se/jrm/content/?doi=10.2340/16501977-1961&preview=1
4 Dawson-Hughes, B., Harris, S.S., and Ceqlia, L. “Alkaline diets favor lean tissue mass in older adults.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. March 2008. 87(3):662-5. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18326605
5 Mikus, C.R., et al. “Lowering physical activity impairs glycemic control in healthy volunteers.” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. February 2012. 44(2):225-31. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31822ac0c0. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21716152
6 Arent, S., Landers, M., et al (2000), “The Effects of Exercise on Mood in Older Adults: A Meta-Analytic Review.” The Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, Vol.8, , , , pp.407-430. ISSN:1063-8652. Pdf. https://ulib.derby.ac.uk/ecdu/CourseRes/dbs/currissu/Arent_S.pdf
Comments on this article are closed.
Thanks again. i came across an interesting study which using Calcium isotopes, confirmed that it takes seven days of inactivity to begin loosing bone mass.
Please could you let me know if there is any advice available to help with my jaw pain. I am 70 and my jaw bone grates when I eat ( only soft foods). Is this condition fixable
A Happy Mother’s Day to all who enjoy Vivian’s great advice!!
I have been following the diet and doing densersize for about 6 years. Should I “up” the intensity of the exercises?
I am very appreciative of the information that you continuously share with savers on current research related to osteoporosis. I feel confident in your insights.
I recently listened to a podcast that encouraged taking strontium to benefit bones. Further investigation revealed that it should never be taken with calcium and the recommended dose is 680 mg. What knowledge and insight do you have related to strontium?
Thank you for this great program.
How do I access all the info I receive by e-mail in England. I’m not technology proficient and all the info is in dollars and not pounds.
I’ve read your article with great interest as I always have done for many years since being diagnosed with osteoporosis and osteopenia. I have always tried to maintain 10,000 steps a day by walking preferably outside or jogging on the spot inside whilst watching TV. Unfortunately yesterday I tried star jumps to warm up for a change, and I injured my knee, the area just below my knee. Now I can hardly walk on it so will have to take time off from doing much at all. This really frustrates me as I have so much to do, and especially after reading your article about the benefits of exercise, and how after stopping for several weeks your arteries will go back to how they were prior. Any advice for me please?
Hi Vivian, once again thanks so much for all your research. I actually go to the gym four days x week, & try to walk twice x week – so I am fine in the exercise area. However, I work so hard in my kitchen, because I like to make all my own food & snacks & right now I have sore wrists, fingers & a ganglein on my hand. What is this arthritis? I am over-doing the kitchen bit & all my washing up! I have also been taking an anti-depressant for ten years – but I am now coming off it slowly, & on the days when I don’t take the anti-depressant, my pains come out – apparently, the type of anti-depressant I take has a pain killer linked to it. The name of the pill is cymbalta. I was taking 60mg., but I am down to 30mg., four x week! So I am pleased about the reduction of the pill, but not the pain – although I think it is better to know what you are dealing with!
Doing exercises with a partner keeps you motivated and makes it enjoyable too..
I wanted to follow comments on 5 May, can anyone tell me how to find them please.
Could it be this page, Janet?
Egg shells being 90% calcium, has anyone tried the recommendation of pulverizing them and adding the powder to 3 liters of water and putting that in refrigerator, waiting for a a week to dissolve the shells, adding a little lemon juice and drinking 2-3 glasses every day. I read it in a health magazine…..wondering if this is true?
Hi Mary Kay, I read that article too, but have not tried it. However after Vivian’s comments I don’t think that I will.
Good morning Vivian,
Thank you very much for an encouraging e-mail.
Have a wonderful day. Marlene
I read Rachel’s post and thought that’s me! I injured my knee while doing knee lunges recently. Hence I cannot maintain my usual exercise routine. I would be interested to receive the advice which you promised to send to Rachel. Many thanks.