A single 3‐minute bout of mechanical loading increases bone formation in the rat tibia. We hypothesized that more frequent, shorter loading bouts would elicit a greater osteogenic response than a single 3‐minute bout. The right tibias of 36 adult female Sprague‐Dawley rats were subjected to 360 bending cycles per day of a 54N force delivered in 1, 2, 4, or 6 bouts on each of the 3 loading days. Rats in the 6‐bouts/day group received 60 bending cycles per bout (60 × 6); rats in the 4‐bouts/day group received 90 bending cycles per bout (90 × 4); the 2‐ and 1‐bouts/day groups received 180 and 360 bending cycles per bout, respectively (180 × 2 and 360 × 1). A nonloaded, age‐matched control group (0 × 0) and two sham‐bending groups (60 × 6 and 360 × 1) also were included. Fluorochrome labeling revealed a 10‐fold increase in endocortical lamellar bone formation rate (BFR/bone surface [BS]) in the right tibia versus the left (nonloaded) side in the 60 × 6 bending group. Endocortical BFR/BS in the right tibia of the 4‐, 2‐, and 1‐bout bending groups exhibited 8‐, 4‐, and 4‐fold increases, respectively, over the control side. Relative (right minus left) values for endocortical BFR/BS, mineralizing surface (MS/BS), and mineral apposition rate (MAR) were 65–94% greater in the 90 × 4 and 60 × 6 bending groups compared to the 360 × 1 bending group. Sham‐bending tibias exhibited relative endocortical bone formation values similar to those collected from the control (0 × 0) group. The data show that 360 daily loading cycles applied at intervals of 60 × 6 or 90 × 4 represent a more osteogenic stimulus than 360 cycles applied all at once, and that mechanical loading is more osteogenic when divided into discrete loading bouts. Presumably, bone cells become increasingly “deaf” to the mechanical stimulus as loading cycles persist uninterrupted, and by allowing a rest period between loading bouts, the osteogenic effectiveness of subsequent cycles can be increased.
bone adaptation; mechanical loading; bone modeling; rat tibia; osteoporosis; histomorphometry