Loading and skeletal development and maintenance

J Osteoporos. 2010 Dec 20;2011:786752. doi: 10.4061/2011/786752.


Mechanical loading is a major regulator of bone mass and geometry. The osteocytes network is considered the main sensor of loads, through the shear stress generated by strain induced fluid flow in the lacuno-canalicular system. Intracellular transduction implies several kinases and phosphorylation of the estrogen receptor. Several extra-cellular mediators, among which NO and prostaglandins are transducing the signal to the effector cells. Disuse results in osteocytes apoptosis and rapid imbalanced bone resorption, leading to severe osteoporosis. Exercising during growth increases peak bone mass, and could be beneficial with regards to osteoporosis later in life, but the gain could be lost if training is abandoned. Exercise programs in adults and seniors have barely significant effects on bone mass and geometry at least at short term. There are few data on a possible additive effect of exercise and drugs in osteoporosis treatment, but disuse could decrease drugs action. Exercise programs proposed for bone health are tedious and compliance is usually low. The most practical advice for patients is to walk a minimum of 30 to 60 minutes per day. Other exercises like swimming or cycling have less effect on bone, but could reduce fracture risk indirectly by maintaining muscle mass and force.