Study shows regular exercise during adolescence benefits bone development

teenage girls playing football
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Physical activity in early and mid-adolescence is positively associated with vertebral and hip BMD at age 18.

Attention all parents - new findings showthat adolescents should be as physically active as possible during the critical years of bone development.

A long-term study by Brazilian researchers looked at whether physical activity during adolescence could influence bone mineral density (BMD) in early adulthood. It was part of a large study that tracked 1866 boys and 1945 girls from birth.1

The study assessed the type and intensity of physical activity at 11 and 15 years of age. When the subjects reached 18 years of age they were given a bone mineral density test using DXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) to see whether there was a correlation between higher levels of physical activity and higher BMD.

The results were slightly different in boys and girls, but overall it was shown that physical activity in early- (11 years of age) and mid-adolescence (15 years of age) was positively associated with vertebral and hip BMD at age 18. In boys, it appears that being active at age 15 was more important for increases in bone density compared to at age 11. The individuals will continue to be monitored and future assessments will be carried out during adulthood to see whether the impact continues.

This study further supports (and sheds more light on) what we already know: weight-bearing exercise is a key factor in the development of healthy bones.  While also important in adults, exercise in children and adolescents - who are still growing and building up their ‘bone bank’ - is of primary importance. Greater bone mass in early life is considered a critical factor in protecting against osteoporosis later in life.

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