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Physical Activity Strengthens Children's Bones

Physical activity has been shown to increase bone development in adolescent children, although how it impacts younger children is unknown. This study is one of the first to examine the effects of everyday physical activity on bone density in children.

Methods: Researchers examined the relationship between physical activity and bone measurements in a sample of 368 four- to six-year-old children, using a combination of accelerometry readings, parental reports on their children's activities and similar reports on the number of hours the children spent watching television. Bone density and bone mineral content were measured for the entire body and at specific hip and lumbar-spine sites. Parents were asked to rate their child's activity level on a 5-point Likert scale; report the number of hours their child spent watching television; and attach an accelerometer belt to their child to record physical activity.

Results: Accelerometry measurements and parental reports on their child's physical activity were positively associated with bone density and mineral content in both boys and girls. Comparisons showed 11.9% greater hipbone mineral content in the children who were the most vigorously active, compared to children in the least-active group. Girls who watched more television tended to have lower hipbone densities; boys who watched more television showed no significant loss. Boys had a greater level of total physical and vigorous activity, as well as greater bone measures.

Conclusion: These findings suggest that increased physical activity is associated with increased bone density prior to puberty. The authors state, "Our study raises the possibility that the sooner children become active, the greater their bone accrual and the lower their risk for osteoporotic fractures later in life."

Janz KF, Burns TL, Tomer JC, et al. Physical activity and bone measures in young children: the Iowa Bone Development Study. Pediatrics June 2001:107(6), pp. 1387-1393.


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Date Last Modified - Monday, 27-Jul-2009 09:13:41 PDT