Fitness experts encourage exercise to strengthen muscles, bones and build stamina rather than being a couch potato. Not moving can be detrimental to our bones. Well, then, how does that work for black bears? They are in hibernation for six months out of the year, yet seem to emerge in the spring in good condition.

Bone regeneration experts at the University of Colorado are asking how, indeed, do bears do that? What’s unique about their biology that allows their bodies to basically shut down for months and return to a normal state?

The researchers studied thirteen black bears, over four seasons, comparing enzymes and hormones in the blood that play key roles in bone formation. During inactivity, bones can lose mass and can get reabsorbed by the body. Researchers found an elegant biological balance in bears that prevented bone resorption and inhibited of bone formation. This was accomplished by a balance of calcium in the body which is also important for organ function.

In people with long periods of inactivity, and maybe astronauts in zero gravity, calcium balance could play a vital role in maintaining their bones!

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