Exercise has always been highly recommended for maintaining bone mass and strength as we age, but there could be more to this story. A recent mouse study at the University of Michigan has demonstrated that a mineral-supplemented diet (high in calcium and phosphorous) had an even greater impact on bone density than exercise.
The groups were separated into exercise and non-exercise groups and were fed either a control or a mineral-supplemented diet for 8 weeks, and exercise and detraining groups were fed a control or mineral-supplemented diet for 16 weeks (8 weeks of exercise followed by 8 weeks of detraining).
The results were surprising in that the group fed the mineral-supplemented diet had greater tibial cortical bone mineral content (BMC) and area, whereas the exercise group had only increased the cortical BMC when the exercise regimen was combined with the supplemented diet. After 16 weeks, the mice fed the mineral-supplemented diet all maintained greater tibial cortical BMC and area, trabecular bone volume/tissue volume, bone mineral density, yield force and ultimate force than the mice fed the control diet with or without exercise.
In conclusion, the mineral-supplemented diet impacted bone density the most, but combining exercise with the calcium- and phosphorous-supplemented diet did yield greater results than exercise alone. Although this is a mouse study and clinical results don’t always translate to humans that easily, it may be worth considering both strength training and a mineral-rich diet to stay strong.