WOMEN who take part in Scottish country dancing could reduce their risk of osteoporosis according to research that found one of the main steps involved is ideal for increasing bone strength.

Researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University recruited 22 participants from country dance clubs in Lochwinnoch and Milngavie to measure the stresses that pass through their lower limbs when performing the popular pas-de-bas step.

The women performed the step while standing on a force plate to test whether its impact on the bones fell within the range known to be beneficial to bone health.

The team discovered a force 1.94 times the dancer's body weight goes through their legs when carrying out the move, well within the range of 1.5 to 3.5 demonstrated by earlier studies to help prevent deterioration in bone density.

The findings will be presented during the 8th World Congress of Active Ageing (WCAA), which begins in Glasgow on Monday.

One in three women and one in 12 men over the age of 50 in Scotland will suffer a broken bone as a result of osteoporosis, with around 20,000 people admitted to hospital each year with an osteoporotic fracture.

Literally meaning "porous bones", it is caused by a decline in bone mineral density which weakens the bones and makes them more vulnerable to breakages. It is mainly linked to ageign, but smoking and excess alcohol consumption are also risk factors. Sabita Stewart, an NHS physiotherapist who carried out the research, said the research provided a basis for health professionals to recommend the activity to post-menopausal women, the groups most at risk of developing osteoporisis.

She said: "We can't just be anecdotal and say we think this is good for you before we can recommend things.

"A 2004/06 study that tested 160 ladies in the same age group doing lots of different activities found activities that give an impact between 1.5 and 3.5 times body weight is beneficial for bone health in terms of reduced bone mass loss. That obviously reduces your risk of osteoporosis and increases your bone strength. Therefore, if you were to take a fall you're less likely to break a bone."

She added that evidence suggested an activity such as ceilidh dancing was also better for the bones than some other forms of exercise, such as jogging.

She said: "There are studies coming to light showing that, while running is good for you in terms of being out in the fresh air and has benefits for the heart, in terms of bone health and impact it's maybe not as good as something like Scottish country dancing which is stop-start."

Dr Morag Thow, GCU lecturer in physiotherapy and study co-author, said: "The study provides new quantitative evidence that the impact forces sustained during the pas-de-bas step are beneficial for bone health and thus postmenopausal women and other older individuals can be assured this activity can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis and falls."

The research was also welcomed by the Scottish Country Dance Society.

SCDS chairwoman Ruth Beattie said: "This research adds to the growing number of scientific studies that confirm Scottish country dancing is superior in producing levels of fitness with extensive measurable benefits for older people.

"As well as reducing the risk of osteoporosis, Scottish country dancing can help prevent or treat serious and chronic physical conditions, in addition to improving mental health and general wellbeing."

The Active Ageing congress is co-hosted by Glasgow Caledonian University and the BHF National Centre for Physical Activity and Health at Loughborough University, the sport science department responsible for helping prepare many of Team GB's athletes.

It runs until August 17 at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre in Glasgow.