New Study to Examine Whether Medication and/or Resistance Training Plus Bone-Strengthening Exercises Can Help Older Adults Safely Lose Weight

July 5, 2023

With $7 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health, researchers from Wake Forest University School of Medicine and Wake Forest University will study whether a combination of resistance training plus bone-strengthening exercises and/or osteoporosis medication use can help older adults safely lose weight without sacrificing bone mass.

That paradox – that shedding pounds can help stave off heart disease and diabetes while increasing bone loss and subsequent fracture risk – has been a focus of Kristen Beavers, Ph.D.,  for about a decade. Beavers is an associate professor of health and exercise science at Wake Forest University and a principal investigator for the Bone, Exercise, Alendronate and Caloric Restriction (BEACON) Trial. 

The five-year BEACON study also coincides with the arrival of state-of-the-art technology to Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center said Ashley Weaver, Ph.D., associate professor of biomedical engineering at Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

The technology, called high-resolution peripheral quantitative computed tomography (HR-pQCT), can produce detailed images of bone architecture so researchers can tell exactly how each intervention – resistance training with bone-loading exercises, such as hopping, and/or the bisphosphonate, alendronate – affect bone structure during weight loss.

“In the BEACON study, we have a unique opportunity to see changes in the bone much better with this tool,” said Weaver, principal investigator of the NIH-funded capital equipment grant bringing HR-pQCT technology to the Wake Forest research community. Weaver is also a co-investigator on the BEACON study.

Daniel Beavers, Ph.D., the BEACON principal investigator with Kristen Beavers, will monitor the data collected during the study. He is working with the Division of Public Health Sciences at the medical school to develop a data-capture system that is user-friendly and offers a way to easily flag data that seem unexpected.

BEACON researchers will recruit overweight adults aged 60 or older who already have low bone mass and are not currently taking osteoporosis medication. All participants will follow a one-year dietary weight loss program, and then will be subdivided into four groups: (1) bisphosphonate plus resistance training with bone loading exercises; (2) bisphosphonate only; (3) resistance training with bone loading exercises only; and (4) no bisphosphonate and no resistance training or bone loading exercises.

The research team has begun recruiting study participants. Those who wish to learn more may call 336-713-8539 and select option 2, or email

Read the full release from Wake Forest University.

Media contact: Myra Wright,