Effect of previous and present physical activity on bone mass in elderly women

Osteoporos Int. 2003 May;14(3):208-12. doi: 10.1007/s00198-002-1362-3. Epub 2003 Apr 10.


The importance of a physically active lifestyle as a preventive measure for maintaining bone mass is often stressed. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of everyday physical activity on bone mass from young adulthood to old age in 75-year-old women. Bone mineral density (BMD) was assessed by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry technique in total body, hip (femoral neck and trochanter), and spine (LII-LIV) in a population-based cohort of 995 women, all 75 years old. Each woman responded to a questionnaire giving an estimate of the previous and present physical activity level at work and leisure time from youth and up to the present age of 75 years. No correlations were found between the different estimates of physical activity level and BMD. In a multiple regression analysis the different estimates of physical activity level did not have any combined effect on BMD in any of the skeletal regions measured; neither did the physical activity, previous or present, differ when the subgroup of women with a BMD in the highest quintile at all sites was compared with women with a BMD in the lowest quintile. The activity level in the various areas of life did not correlate to each other indicating that few women had chosen a generally active vs non-active lifestyle. A hypothetical positive effect on bone by one activity could therefore be diminished by another. The answer alternatives were mostly not normally distributed, which could also affect the results, making it difficult to identify women with extremely high or low physical activity level. In conclusion, the results from this study of randomly selected elderly women cannot confirm an effect of previous and present everyday physical activity on bone mass. Neither was it possible to find an effect of physical activity in those women with the highest BMD at all sites, suggesting that other factors are of greater importance for maintaining bone mass in elderly women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Bone Density / physiology
  • Bone and Bones / drug effects
  • Bone and Bones / physiology*
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Female
  • Femur / physiology
  • Humans
  • Physical Exertion / physiology*
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • Spine / physiology