Which is better for your bones: a healthy diet or exercise? It’s a question that scientists would love to answer, and one that could greatly benefit humans as we undergo the aging process.

A new study conducted by the University of Michigan and published in PLOS One aimed to answer this conundrum. Researchers looked at mineral supplementation and exercise in mice and  were surprised by the results.

Nutrition, it appears, has a greater impact on bone mass and strength than exercise. Furthermore, even after the test mice stopped exercising, they retained the bone strength they gained, as long as they ate a healthy, mineral-supplemented diet.

Nutrition or exercise: Which is better for your bones?
Maintaining bone density is important as we age, so scientists are researching the most effective means to make this happen.

While the study was done on mice, it makes sense. David Kohn, a University of Michigan professor in the schools of dentistry and engineering and the study’s lead author, said, “If you think about the progression to humans, diet is easier for someone to carry on as they get older and stop exercising, rather than the continuation of exercise itself.”

A second important finding showed that diet alone has beneficial effects on bone density, even without exercising.

“The data suggests that long-term consumption of the mineral-supplemented diet could be beneficial in preventing the loss of bone and strength with age, even if you don’t do exercise training,” said Kohn.

While this study isn’t enough to suggest that people ditch the weights and run out and buy calcium and other bone density supplements, it is a good place for researchers to start considering how to keep our aging bones young and healthy longer.

Humans reach peak bone mass in their early 20s, and after that, we see a decline that can cause all sorts of health problems like osteoporosis, curvature of the spine, and other risks of injury because of instability. Future research could help combat these and other chronic muscle, bone, and joint diseases.

(h/t Michigan News)

Also see, 5 big ways eating pumpkin seeds can improve your health.


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Meghan is a full-time writer exploring the fun facts behind food. She lives a healthy lifestyle but lives for breakfast, dessert and anything with marinara. She’s thrown away just as many meals as she’s proud of.