Bones (Not Diamonds) Are a Runners Best Friend

Catherine Logan

December 14th, 2020

Guest Blog with Dr. Elizabeth Matzkin, MD

Dr. Matzkin is a Board Certified and fellowship trained Orthopaedic Surgeon specializing in Sports Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA.

Bone health is paramount for healthy running.

But running isn’t always healthy for our bones. Bone density is a measurement of the mineral content in our bones—a way to tell how strong they are. It is true that impact exercises, such as running, are important to help keep our bones strong. But too much running can lead to bone weaknesses. 

Bone density is maximized by about age 25. After that, you can only maintain what you have. This is very important for our younger athletes, females especially. Build your bone density while you can. One in every two women over age 50 is at risk of osteoporosis or weak bones later in life.

How do we maintain our bone density? Eat well and exercise.

Nutrition is extremely important. Make sure you fuel your body with adequate energy for the amount of running you do. A normal menstrual cycle is also important for your bone health. If running is leading to missed or abnormal menstrual cycles, a physician should evaluate and address it. This can lead to loss of bone density. It’s important to understand that bone density that is lost can not be replaced. Failing to provide your body with the nutrients and calories it needs for daily function and running results in weak bones.

Running will help maintain bone health. But running too much or changing your training too quickly can be detrimental to bone health. Bone is living tissue. So, if you introduce running or an increase in your mileage slowly, bone can accommodate the impact and stress you’re putting on it. If not, the result will be a stress fracture or injury—a far too common but preventable injury in runners. 

Remember: Bones are a runner’s best friend!

For optimal bone health:

  • Maximize bone density when you’re younger
  • Maintain bone density as you age
  • Maintain good nutrition and adequate energy availability
  • Get your daily recommendation of vitamin D and calcium
  • Don’t smoke
  • Limit alcohol intake