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Menopausal women should walk downhill to preserve their bones, experts say

Henry Bodkin
Walking downhill involves more gravity, helping to preserve bones post-menopause - Mint Images RF

Middle-aged women should prioritise walking downhill over walking uphill to prevent their bones becoming fragile, according to a new study.

Trials found that a downhill gradient placed more weight on bones, thereby slowing deterioration in women who were undergoing the menopause.

Most-menopausal women are at higher risk of bones becoming fragile due to depleted oestrogen levels.

In some cases, they can go on to suffer from debilitating conditions such as osteoporosis, which is often first diagnosed with a hip or wrist fracture.

In the new study, conducted by the University of Michigan, 15 participants were split into groups, with one asked to spend 40 minutes on a treadmill set at an uphill incline, with another group on a downhill-pointing treadmill.

The participants' blood was tested for markers of bone formation and resorption, the process by which old bone is broken down and removed from the body.

The study found that the most effective way to reduce the breakdown of the protein collagen, which helps form bone, was to walk downhill.

Moreover, those who exercised after a meal indicated better bone health than those who exercised before eating.

The research team believe this is because exercising after eating may help nutrients from the food get absorbed into the bloodstream.

"We wanted to see whether eating before or after meals, and walking downhill or uphill, had an effect on markers of bone formation and resorption in these women," said lead researcher Dr Katarina Borer.

"The best exercise for your bones is the weight-bearing kind, which forces you to work against gravity.

When you walk downhill, the pull of gravity is greater."

The research team said gyms with treadmill lacking a downhill function should wedge cement blocks at the rear of the devices to tilt them downwards.

The new research was presented on Monday at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in New Orleans.