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Women Sought for UW Health Cycling Study

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Women who are avid cyclists between the ages of 35 and 55 and are interested in volunteering for this study can call (608) 263-8786.

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Madison, Wisconsin - Are women who bike frequently setting themselves up for bone problems as they get older?


Several studies have shown that male bicyclists who biked as a primary form of exercise but didn't mix in much weight-bearing activity - such as running, basketball or lifting weights - developed worse bone health than those who engaged in regular weight-bearing exercise.


Dr. Alison Brooks, a UW Health sports medicine physician and assistant professor of orthopedics with the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, wants to see if that also holds true for women. She's currently heading a study that will focus on women between the ages of 35 and 55.


Using bone density scans, Dr. Brooks will compare the bone-mineral density of women who cycle more than six hours a week to those who cycle less frequently but mix in weight-bearing exercise.


"It's quite possible that we'll find there isn't a huge difference between the groups," says Brooks. "But part of what we're doing is trying to gauge the scope of these women's lifetime activities. A lot of them were athletic when they were younger, in the teen years which are most important for building bone mass.


"We may find the amount of physical, weight-bearing activity they did as a child is now protecting them as an adult."


That could be an important message for both middle-aged women and teens-the notion that mixing up physical activity when you're young is the best way to ensure bone health as you age.


Dr. Neil Binkley, an osteoporosis specialist and associate professor of medicine (geriatrics) with UW School of Medicine and Public Health, will conduct the bone density scans. In his clinical universe, a woman's bone and muscle health are inextricably linked.


"Exercise is crucial for maintaining bone and muscle health, and thereby reduce the risk for falls and fracture as we age" says Binkley. He shares Brooks' view that it's important for women to pay attention to exercise and bone health when they're younger - especially given that it's no longer common for women to take estrogen supplements following menopause. While riddled with drawbacks, supplemental estrogen did prevent bone loss.


"Will exercise mitigate bone loss with menopause? Dr. Brooks' study will add important insight to the answer," says Binkley.


Brooks is looking to recruit women age 35 to 55 who cycle heavily but engage in minimal weight-bearing exercise activities. Women on medications or those who have a medical issue that affects bone health are excluded from participating. Brooks hopes to have study results compiled by early 2011.


"In our modern society, we do a lot of sitting," says Brooks. "Even if you don't label yourself as a cyclist or runner or swimmer, we all need exercise. When you're up on your feet, doing weight-bearing activities, you're benefiting your health."

Date Published: 08/19/2010

News tag(s):  researchm alison brooksneil c binkleysportswomen's health

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Women Sought for UW Health Cycling Study

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