If you’re familiar with my work, you know I write a lot about the importance of exercise in the Better Bones, Better Body program. Exercise is a wonderful thing for adults, but imagine the impact if we all incorporated enough exercise throughout our younger years of growth and development. Could exercise be the secret to helping children avoid osteoporosis in the future? The research says yes, so let’s take a deeper look.
Weight Bearing Exercise for Children
Bone is developing rapidly in childhood and adolescence, and peak bone mass is not reached until the age of 30. A 5 to 10% increase in peak bone mass in young adolescents can translate to a 50% reduction of fracture risk in older age.
Bone responds to the load placed upon it, so weight-bearing exercise will is key for developing an optimal peak bone mass. However, as our lives become more and more sedentary, children are exercising less and therefore setting their bones up for failure later in life. An analysis of NHANES data from 2001-2006 found that adolescents spend an average of 8.2 hours per day sitting, and 59% spend 2 hours or more per day watching television or other videos (Yang et al 2019).
Jumping for Joy
Tell your kids to jump for joy and at every chance they get, because a four-year study found significant gains in bone density from jumping! The study included 107 girls and 98 boys with an average age of 8.5 years. In the standard education curriculum, the intervention group simply added jumping exercises. At the end of the study, the group that performed the jumping exercises regularly had higher bone density in the lumbar spine, total hip, femoral neck, and whole body than the control group.
Daily Exercise Is Key
Another study investigated childhood exercise and fracture risk later in life. Researchers studied 3,534 children ages 6 to 8 years old for up to seven years. One group engaged in gym classes one day a week for 60 minutes, while another group had gym classes every day for 40 minutes. At the end of the seven-year study, the group that exercised every day had almost half the rate of fracture incidence compared with their once-a-week counterparts.
If you have a child or grandchild in your life, my advice to you is simple: try working out together and share the gift of better bone health. Helping children avoid osteoporosis later in life is easy — and fun!
Yang, L., C. Cao, E. D. Kantor, L. H. Nguyen, X. Zheng, Y. Park, E. L. Giovannucci, C. E. Matthews, G. A. Colditz and Y. Cao (2019). “Trends in Sedentary Behavior Among the US Population, 2001-2016.” Jama 321(16): 1587-1597.
Brody, J. E. (1994, Jun 20). The war on brittle bones must start early in life: Final edition]. Kingston Whig – Standard Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.libezproxy2.syr.edu/docview/353249839?accountid=14214
I’m Dr. Susan Brown. I am a nutritionist, medical anthropologist, writer, and speaker. Get my free weekly newsletter here.