Don’t Got Milk? Throw a Baseball!

bonesI knew baseball was great sport, but I didn’t realize the benefit you get from throwing the ball around.  In a recent article on, Bianca Nogrady wrote how Exercise during youth builds strong bones for life.

She refers to a study by a team of researchers with members from the U.S. and Australia that found that people who exercise when young tend to increase the size and strength of their bones, which appears to make for lifelong benefits. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team describes how they studied the bones in the arms of professional baseball players over the course of their lives and how their activities impacted bone size and strength.

Not only can exercise cause muscles to grow bigger and leaner, now it appears it offers similar benefits for bones as well.  In this new study, the research team enlisted the assistance of 103 professional baseball players to learn more about the impact of exercise on bones.  The researchers found that the ball players had up to twice the bone strength in their throwing arms as in their non-throwing arm (as measured by bone size and density).

Researchers also found that even decades after players had stopped playing baseball, the cross-sectional size of the bone — which is a key determinant of bone strength — was largely preserved.

Baseball players were used in the research because when they throw a fast ball, the muscles in the upper part of the arm twist and therefore twist the bone.  The CT imaging used in the study showed that over time, that twisting motion causes the outer surface of the bone to increase in size.

The findings have implications for current advice on how to preserve bone strength throughout life, suggesting that it’s more important to focus on activities that increase bone size such as strength training.  They found that even former players in their nineties, who hadn’t thrown a ball in fifty years, still retained more than half of the throwing-related increase in bone size — around the same amount as those who continued playing — and around one-third of the benefits in bone torsional strength.  Players who continued to throw kept the same amount of bone size, but also preserved more of the bone strength.

Keep throwing Lefty, maybe try throwing right-handed too…