Building bone strengh in runners

What can we supplement for runners to improve their bone health?

Unfortunately, running is seen as a sport or training modality that increases the resilience and capacity of the bones of the body. Although this does hold some truth, the amount is minimal compared to what could be achieved.

As you can see below, gymnastics was found to be a high bone building activity while we see running categorised as a low osteogenic stimulus.

Several high-quality reviews have shown that increasing running volume with the intention of enhancing bone health is an uphill battle and that:

  1. Lifting heavy weights and/or
  2. Maximal jump training improves bone health in pre-menopausal athletes.

Using these modalities can create a buffer when training load increases. Further, the body isn’t subject to the strain that running entails while still gaining benefit.

With consistent training, school and commitments, training time can be sensitive. So, which is most likely to cause an osteogenic, or ‘bone-building response’?

Firstly, either will achieve increased bone resilience. Simply, this happens as the loads from either of these modalities are greater than those of running. Further, as the repetitions are lower, the risk of accumulating bone damage is lower compared to say a 5km or 10km run.

So, let’s look at the studies that performed the training:


Study 1 looked at 4 sets of fast and heavy squats.

3-5 reps @ 85-90% of their 1 rep max.

12-weeks, 3 times a week.


Results of bone mineral density (BMD) after:

2.2% increase in Lumbar Spine in BMD

1% increase in femoral neck in BMD


Study 2 looked at doing 20 jumps, 3 times a day for 6 months  with a vest (0-5kg in weight)

Results of bone mineral density (BMD) after:

4.6% increase in Lumbar Spine in BMD

9.8% increase in femoral neck in BMD

So, what does all this mean and what are the take always?


  1. Jump training is better for the legs & hip, lifting heavy weights is better for the spine. A program that uses both is probably best.
  2. Both training styles in conjunction with running is an easy and effective way to enhance bone health
  3. These modalities can be done at home, gym or even in the park so it’s a worthwhile investment


Podcast by Professor Stuart Warden on all things Bone Stress injuries



Baxter-Jones AD, Faulkner RA, Forwood MR, Mirwald RL, Bailey DA (2011) Bone mineral accrual from 8 to 30 years of age: an estimation of peak bone mass. J Bone Miner Res 26(8):1729–1739.


Martyn-St James M, Carroll S. Effects of different impact exercise modalities on bone mineral density in premenopausal women: a meta-analysis. J Bone Miner Metab. 2010 May;28(3):251-67. doi: 10.1007/s00774-009-0139-6. Epub 2009 Dec 15. PMID: 20013013.


Mosti, Mats P.1; Carlsen, Trude2; Aas, Elisabeth2; Hoff, Jan2,3; Stunes, Astrid K.1; Syversen, Unni1,4 Maximal Strength Training Improves Bone Mineral Density and Neuromuscular Performance in Young Adult Women, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: October 2014 - Volume 28 - Issue 10 - p 2935-2945 doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000493

Blake about us

Blake Withers

Blake has a passion for endurance athletes and in particular, runners. His post graduate research investigated perceptions around footwear and foot type within this group. He is a keen athlete himself, finishing 3rd recently in the Noosa Triathlon in his respected category and 1st in the Glasshouse 100 (15km) trail run through the Glasshouse mountains. He currently continues to train for marathons, triathlons, and Ironman events. ‘Building resilience is one of the most important aspects I have found to be pivotal in the rehab journey’

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