Bone loss during partial weight bearing (1/6th gravity) is mitigated by resistance and aerobic exercise in mice Academic Article uri icon


  • Astronauts on long duration missions continue to experience bone loss, as much as 1-2% each month, for up to 4.5 years after a mission. Mechanical loading of bone with exercise has been shown to increase bone formation, mass, and geometry. The aim of this study was to compare the efficacy of two exercise protocols during a period of reduced gravitational loading (1/6th body weight) in mice. Since muscle contractions via resistance exercise impart the largest physiological loads on the skeleton, we hypothesized that resistance training (via vertical tower climbing) would better protect against the deleterious musculoskeletal effects of reduced gravitational weight bearing when compared to endurance exercise (treadmill running). Young adult female BALB/cBYJ mice were randomly assigned to three groups: 1/6 g (G/6; n=6), 1/6 g with treadmill running (G/6+RUN; n=8), or 1/6 g with vertical tower climbing (G/6+CLB; n=9). Exercise was performed five times per week. Reduced weight bearing for 21 days was achieved through a novel harness suspension system. Treadmill velocity (12-20 m/min) and daily run time duration (32-51 min) increased incrementally throughout the study. Bone geometry and volumetric bone mineral density (vBMD) at proximal metaphysis and mid-diaphysis tibia were assessed by in vivo peripheral quantitative computed tomography (pQCT) on days 0 and 21 and standard dynamic histomorphometry was performed on undemineralized sections of the mid-diaphysis after tissue harvest. G/6 caused a significant decrease (P<0.001) in proximal tibia metaphysis total vBMD (-9.6%). These reductions of tibia metaphyseal vBMD in G/6 mice were mitigated in both G/6+RUN and G/6+CLB groups (P<0.05). After 21 days of G/6, we saw an absolute increase in tibia mid-diaphysis vBMD and in distal metaphysis femur vBMD in both G/6+RUN and G/6+CLB mice (P<0.05). Substantial increases in endocortical and periosteal mineralizing surface (MS/BS) at mid-diaphysis tibia in G/6+CLB demonstrate that bone formation can be increased even in the presence of reduced weight bearing. These data suggest that moderately vigorous endurance exercise and resistance training, through treadmill running or climb training mitigates decrements in vBMD during 21 days of reduced weight bearing. Consistent with our hypothesis, tower climb training, most pronounced in the tibia mid-diaphysis, provides a more potent osteogenic response compared to treadmill running. 2014 IAA.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Boudreaux, R. D., Metzger, C. E., Macias, B. R., Shirazi-Fard, Y., Hogan, H. A., & Bloomfield, S. A.

citation count

  • 3

complete list of authors

  • Boudreaux, RD||Metzger, CE||Macias, BR||Shirazi-Fard, Y||Hogan, HA||Bloomfield, SA

publication date

  • June 2014