Olympic rowers show that intense training without sufficient recovery can diminish bone health
By Zachary Panton ’19

The density of minerals in bone is a standard indicator of overall bone strength, and frequent, regular exercise increases the bone mineral density and strengthens bones. Researchers at Brock University in Canada, however, have recently discovered that elite athletes that participate in persistent, rigorous training may actually be decreasing their mineral bone density and increasing their chances of bone fracture and osteoporosis. Source: Wikipedia.


For decades, scientists have clearly established that regular exercise has major benefits for overall health, including not only heart health, but also bone health. Regular exercise increases the concentration of minerals in bones, serving to strengthen our skeletons, and helps to decrease the risk of bone-related injuries and diseases.

However, recently researchers affiliated with the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) at Brock University in Canada discovered evidence that the intensity of workouts can actually reverse the aforementioned benefits and increase an athlete’s susceptibility to bone injuries and diseases.

Researchers discovered this through monitoring changes in osteoprotegerin (OPG), a protein that helps sequester bone minerals and sclerostin (SOST), a protein that hinders bone formation, in female Olympic rowers. The rowers trained intensely, logging an average of nearly 18 hours of training per week, sharply decreasing the amount of OPG in their blood. This decline in OPG was correlated with a loss in the amount of bone minerals in the blood. Conversely, SOST levels seemed to increase with the trainings of long duration and intensity and decrease during periods of rest.

Furthermore, when the bodies of the athletes become inflamed, presumably from muscle soreness after intense workouts, the SOST blood levels increased. As a result, researchers propose that active recovery time be used for athletes who participate in high intensity trainings because long-term intense activity without recovery can promote bone resorption.

The researchers used X-ray absorptiometry before and after the study to assess how significant the changes in bone mineral density were and attempted to determine if there were any legitimate immediate health concerns. The findings showed miniscule changes before and after the training season for the Olympic Games. From this, it appears that in everyday life, exercising without appropriate recovery would not have tremendous health effects. The findings also suggest that high intensity training for premier athletes does not cause for extreme concern; however, how this phenomenon would affect athletes over the course of many years still needs to be studied.

1. Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). (2017, April 25). Intense training without proper recovery may compromise bone health in elite rowers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 8, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170425153814.htm