Enhancing Skeletal Adaptations to PTH and Exercise (ESkAPE)

  • End date
    Sep 30, 2024
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    VA Office of Research and Development
Updated on 18 April 2022
Accepts healthy volunteers


Exercise is essential for building and maintaining bone mass and strength, but current exercise recommendations for how to achieve this lack detail on the optimal exercise prescription. Recent studies found that blood calcium level decreases during exercise, and that calcium is mobilized from bone to slow the decline. If this occurs repeatedly during exercise training, it could diminish the potential benefits of exercise to improve bone health. The proposed study will determine whether further research on pre-exercise supplemental calcium to minimize the decline in blood calcium level during exercise is warranted. This research is important for Veterans because they are at increased risk of hip fracture when compared with non-Veterans. Further, because osteoporosis in men is under-recognized and under-treated, providing male (and female) Veterans with more specific exercise and nutrition guidelines has the potential to enhance bone health, reduce fracture risk, and improve quality of life.


Exercise is essential for building and maintaining bone mass and strength, but recent work has raised the possibility that current exercise recommendations for bone health may not be appropriate. There is strong evidence that a single bout of vigorous exercise has an acute catabolic effect in bone (i.e., increased resorption) that lasts several hours. This is mediated by a decrease in serum calcium (Ca) during exercise, which stimulates parathyroid hormone (PTH) secretion. PTH then activates bone resorption to mobilize Ca from bone, presumably to prevent the decrease in serum Ca from progressing to a harmful level. This cascade of events can be markedly attenuated by minimizing the decline in serum Ca during exercise via either intravenous or oral Ca administration. The timing of Ca supplementation relative to exercise is likely important, because it must be available for gut absorption during exercise. Interestingly, repeated pharmacologic stimulation of the PTH receptor with PTH analogs (teriparatide, abaloparatide) has anabolic effects on bone, suggesting that repeated exercise-induced increases in PTH could have a chronic anabolic skeletal effect, in addition to the acute catabolic effect, which may be apparent only after repeated exercise sessions. If this is the case, suppressing the PTH response with pre-exercise Ca supplementation may not be appropriate. In this context, this proof-of-concept study will include a short exercise intervention consisting of treadmill exercise at 70% to 80% of maximal heart rate, 60 minutes per day, 4 days per week, for 4 weeks. Serum markers of bone formation and resorption will be measured before, during, and for 24 hours after the 1st, 8th, and 16th exercise sessions to address two questions: 1) Does the acute catabolic response of bone to a single bout of exercise continue to occur with repeated exercise sessions (i.e., exercise training)? 2) Does exercise training also generate an anabolic PTH-mediated bone response, similar to the anabolic response to PTH analog therapy? If the answers to questions 1 and 2 are YES (persistent catabolic signal) and NO (lack of anabolic signal), this will support the need for the randomized controlled trial (RCT), which will evaluate whether taking Ca before exercise to attenuate the acute catabolic response improves skeletal adaptations to exercise training. The overarching goal is to improve the currently imprecise recommendations for exercise to improve and maintain bone health. This research is of high relevance to Veterans, who are at increased risk of hip fracture when compared with non-Veterans. Further, because osteoporosis in men is under-recognized, under-diagnosed, and under-treated, providing male Veterans with an effective non-pharmacologic therapeutic option to reduce fracture risk may help close this treatment gap. The potential impact of this research also extends beyond Veterans. It could lead to reduced risk of exercise-related bone injury (i.e., stress fractures) in active duty military personnel and athletes and to improved bone health in the general population.

Condition Exercise, Bone Resorption, Bone Formation
Treatment Endurance exercise intervention
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT05029128
SponsorVA Office of Research and Development
Last Modified on18 April 2022


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

Female and male Veterans aged 25 to 45 y and 55 to 75 y will be enrolled. Eligible
volunteers will be normally active (e.g., recreational cycling or walking) but will not
participate in regular moderate-to-vigorous exercise. Women will be premenopausal with
regular menstrual cycles or postmenopausal, defined as absence of menses for at least 12 mo
or, in those who underwent a hysterectomy, a serum follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) >30

Exclusion Criteria

Initiation or change in dose in the past 6 months of medications that affect bone
e.g., osteoporosis medications, thiazide/loop diuretics, systemic glucocorticoids
BMD T-score <-2.5 at the total hip, femoral neck, or lumbar spine
Impaired renal function, defined as an estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) <60
Abnormal alkaline phosphatase
Untreated thyroid dysfunction, defined as an ultrasensitive thyroid stimulating
hormone (TSH) <0.5 or >5.0 mU/L
Serum Ca <8.5 or >10.3 mg/dL
Serum 25(OH)D <20 ng/mL
Uncontrolled hypertension (resting systolic blood pressure (BP) >150 mmHg or diastolic
BP >90 mmHg)
Type 1 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes if on insulin or sulfonylurea therapy
hemoglobin A1c >7%
Cardiovascular disease; defined as subjective or objective indicators of ischemic
heart disease (e.g., angina, ST segment depression) or serious arrhythmias at rest or
during the graded exercise test (GXT)
volunteers who have a positive GXT can be re-considered after follow-up
evaluation by a cardiologist
Anemia (hemoglobin <12.1 g/dL for women, <14.3 g/dL for men)
Fracture in the past 6 months
Body mass index >39 kg/m2
In the event of abnormal eGFR, alkaline phosphatase, TSH, BP, 25(OH)D, or
hemoglobin values, volunteers can be reassessed, including after appropriate
follow-up evaluation and treatment by their health care provider
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