Bone Health for Runners

August 27, 2020

Bone Health for Runners (Part 1)

Runners rarely thinks about bone health until unfortunately they have an accident or suffer from an injury and then their focus is on healing quickly so they can return to training. As we get older we are probably aware that bone health may deteriorate so perhaps it gets on our ‘health radar’ as we approach middle age.

Bone health is important at every age, we grow our bones as a child and teenager and we reach peak (BMD) bone mineral density by our late 20’s. Having good nutrition for bone health during those years is crucial. Most people are probably aware that BMD decreases with age from about 40 years old and especially during menopausal years and that may lead to Osteopenia and Osteoporosis. Often these conditions go undetected until someone has a fall/fracture.

A bone stress injury can halt a running season and may even lead to a longer term injury so looking after your bone health as a runner is important for health and a long enjoyable running life.

In this episode we are focusing on Bone Health for Runners and specifically we’ll be discussing:

  1. What makes healthy bones
  2. Causes of Bone Stress Fractures (BSI) in runners
  3. How nutrition and lifestyle factors can promote healthy bones (just going to give an overview and there will be a follow up episode where we’ll take a closer look at nutrition)

LISTEN HERE Episode 21: Bone Health for Runners (Part 1)



Find out why bone health is a personal issue for both Aileen and Karen


At what age do you feel that we have to start looking after bone health?


Why is looking after bone health important at every age stage in life.


Insights into the bone remodeling process and how we can support it whatever the condition of our bone structure is.


An overview of the key bone cells and what their role is in bone remodeling i.e. osteoclasts, osteoblasts, oestocytes and bone lining cells.


How the osteocytes act as sensors to direct bone remodeling at the point of stress load and why weight bearing exercise is important.


The female factors to consider in bone health and re modelling i.e. in childhood and teens, during pregnancy and breast feeding, peri and menopause and post menopause and older years.


Bone Stress Injuries – why runners are at risk and a look at the extrinsic and intrinsic factors leading to bone stress injuries.


Karen’s experience of a bone stress injury and what she did to promote healing and recovery.


Bone Stress Injuries in runners – are we at a high risk?


Looking at the extrinsic factors leading to bone stress injuries e.g. bio mechanical factors of the force you hit the ground, your running gait, your training – duration, mileage, frequency, speed and intensity. Also failure to schedule rest and recovery and considering muscle strength and endurance, training surfaces and terrain, and footwear.


Looking at the extrinsic factors leading to bone stress injuries e.g. genetics, eating to your energy requirements. It’s important to consume enough food and calories to meet your body requirements for the whole array of physiological processes as well as your exercise and training requirements. So that’s key for good health, but particularly thinking about the processes that include the growth and maturation of bone forming and having the correct nutrient building blocks for bone remodeling. Other factors include promoting good musculoskeletal health and being aware of medications which may affect/inhibit bone remodeling process.


An overview of nutrition and lifestyle factors relating to bone health.


Key nutrients involved in bone remodeling i.e. anti inflammatory nutrients such as essential fatty acids, ginger and turmeric, Calcium, Vitamin D, Magnesium, Collagen and trace minerals.


The importance of balancing female hormones and the role of digestion to support bio availability of nutrients.


Being aware of the negative dietary and environmental factors which may lead to poor bone health e.g. low nutrient status due to poor quality food, environmental toxins in food chain and in our daily environment, poor quality water, potential of medication inhibiting bone remodelling process.


The Female Factors cover all stages of life:

Teenage years: One of the big health concerns of our time is that children and teenagers drink a lot of soft fizzy drinks and these drinks contain phosphoric acid which leaches calcium from bones. So, the concern is that young people may not have optimal peak BMD which may be a problem in later life.

Pregnancy and breast feeding – during pregnancy the baby needs calcium to grown bones and will get this via Mother’s nutrition or it will be draw what is needed from Mother’s bones – particularly in last 3 months of pregnancy. Pregnant women appear to absorb calcium better than non pregnant women. During pregnancy we produce more oestrogen which protects bones. Bone mass is usually restored after several months after child birth and breast feeding phase completed. KEY is to pay attention your nutritional requirements.


Most women are aware that oestrogen declines in menopausal years.

Oestrogen promotes osteoblast activity – the cells which create bone growth and renewal When oestrogen levels drop during menopause, the osteoblasts aren’t able to effectively produce bone.

Post Menopause and older years:

Potentially have lower BMD and OP, nutrient status may not be optimal due to diet and digestion, also potentially less weight bearing exercise and balance related exercise. If balance poor higher risk of falling/fractures and longer healing process.


  • Look after your bones throughout every life stage – think about nutrition, exercise and lifestyle factors
  • Eat a nutritionally dense food plan and don’t under eat – eat to your energy requirements for daily life and for your training and include bone building nutrients
  • Get niggles and pains investigated – don’t run through them as you may cause long lasting injury
  • Do a variety of exercises particularly weight bearing, pilates, yoga, barre – this will promote bone building in all parts of the skeleton
  • Nutritionally address inflammation, hormonal balance and digestion alongside key nutrients status of Calcium, Magnesium, Vitamin D, Collagen and trace minerals
  • Minimise exposure to negative dietary and lifestyle factors and environmental toxins e.g. smoking, alcohol, processed foods and stress
  • Reduce potential toxins from food, water and environment
  • Get a medication review to check drugs are not inhibiting bone remodelling process

Related Episodes:

Bone Health For Runners (Part 2)

Endurance Running and the Immune System

Nutrition for Running Injury

Related Resources:


The suggestions we make during this episode are for guidance and advice only, and are not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. If you have any concerns regarding your health, please contact your healthcare professional for advice as soon as possible.

Remember we are available to support you if required contact us at hello@

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