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Endurance running prevents the age-related decline of calcaneal bone stiffness

Diana Ruiz-Vicente 1Teresa García-Pastor 1Beatriz Lara 1Juan José Salinero 1 2Francisco Areces 1César Gallo-Salazar 1Javier Abián-Vicén 2Fernando Jiménez 2Juan Del Coso 3

Arch Osteoporos. 2021 Jun 2;16(1):83. doi: 10.1007/s11657-021-00942-5.


This investigation presents a comparison of calcaneus bone stiffness of endurance runners of different ages and age-matched controls. We found that there was an age-associated decline in calcaneus bone stiffness in the control group while endurance runners prevented this decline, with a higher effect as the participants increased their age.

Purpose: Previous investigations have found that endurance runners have higher bone mineral density and other bone quality variables in mechanically loaded bones. However, it is unknown if endurance running might counteract the decline in bone stiffness that occurs with age. The purpose of this study was to compare calcaneus bone stiffness of endurance runners of different ages to age-matched controls.

Methods: In a descriptive cross-sectional study, 182 endurance-trained male runners and 116 healthy untrained male controls underwent an ultrasonographic assessment of the calcaneus bone in the right and left heels. Calcaneal bone stiffness was calculated from assessments of the broadband ultrasound attenuation and the speed of sound.

Results: The line of best fit for the association between age and calcaneus stiffness was different between marathoners and controls (Z = – 2.1, P = 0.02). A two-way ANCOVA (condition × age) with body mass, and body mass index as covariates, revealed that there were main effects of condition (F = 26.8, P < 0.01) and age (F = 4.2, P < 0.01) for calcaneus stiffness, with a significant interaction between these two factors (F = 2.8, P = 0.03). The post hoc analysis revealed that calcaneus stiffness was significantly higher in marathoners of 40-44 years (121.5 ± 18.2 vs 101.1 ± 21.3 arbitrary units [A.U.], P = 0.01), 45-49 years (121.5 ± 19.7 vs 104.3 ± 13.4 A.U., P = 0.04), and > 50 years (111.2 ± 17.9 vs 92.4 ± 16.0 A.U., P < 0.01) than their untrained counterparts of the same age with no statistically significant differences in the remaining age groups.

Conclusion: Endurance runners of > 40 years had higher values of calcaneus stiffness than controls, providing evidence to support the potential effect of endurance running to reduce the age-related decline on calcaneus bone stiffness.