Osteoporosis currently afflicts 8 million postmenopausal women in the US, increasing the risk of bone fractures and morbidity, and reducing overall quality of life. We sought to define moderate exercise protocols that can prevent postmenopausal osteoporosis. Our previous findings singled out higher walking speed and pre-exercise meals as necessary for suppression of bone resorption and increasing of markers of bone formation. Since both studies were amenable to alternate biomechanical, nutritional, and circadian interpretations, we sought to determine the relative importance of higher speed, momentum, speed-enhanced load, duration of impulse, and meal timing on osteogenic response. We hypothesized that: (1) 20 min of exercise one hour after eating is sufficient to suppress bone resorption as much as a 40-min impulse and that two 20 min exercise bouts separated by 7 h would double the anabolic effect; (2) early morning exercise performed after eating will be as effective as mid-day exercise for anabolic outcome; and (3) the 08:00 h 40-min. exercise uphill would be as osteogenic as the 40-min exercise downhill. Healthy postmenopausal women, 8 each, were assigned to a no-exercise condition (SED) or to 40- or 20-min exercise bouts, spaced 7 h apart, for walking uphill (40 Up and 20 Up) or downhill (40 Down and 20 Down) to produce differences in biomechanical variables. Exercise was initiated at 08:00 h one hour after eating in 40-min groups, and also 7 h later, two hours after the midday meal, in 20-min groups. Measurements were made of CICP (c-terminal peptide of type I collagen), osteocalcin (OC), and bone-specific alkaline phosphatase (BALP), markers of bone formation, and of the bone resorptive marker CTX (c-terminal telopeptide of type 1 collagen). The osteogenic ratios CICP/CTX, OC/CTX, and BALP/CTX were calculated. Only the 40-min downhill exercise of suprathreshold speed-enhanced momentum, increased the three osteogenic ratios, demonstrating the necessity of a 40-min, and inadequacy of a 20-min, exercise impulse. The failure of anabolic outcome in 40-min uphill exercise was attributed to a sustained elevation of PTH concentration, as its high morning elevation enhances the CTX circadian rhythm. We conclude that postmenopausal osteoporosis can be prevented or mitigated in sedentary women by 45 min of morning exercise of suprathreshold speed-enhanced increased momentum performed shortly after a meal while walking on level ground, or by 40-min downhill, but not 40-min uphill, exercise to avoid circadian PTH oversecretion. The principal stimulus for the anabolic effect is exercise, but the prerequisite for a pre-exercise meal demonstrates the requirement for nutrient facilitation.
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