Context: Although the positive effect of well-designed exercise regimes on bone mineral density (BMD) is established the osteo-anabolic relevance of habitual physical activity and non-athletic exercise is still under discussion.
Objective: To determine the effects of habitual physical activity, non-athletic exercise muscle strength, VO2max and anthropometric parameters on BMD in early post-menopausal women.
Design: Cross-sectional study.
Methods: 150 early postmenopausal women (55.5+/-3.4 years), which were free of diseases or medication affecting bone metabolism and had no athletic history were investigated. The influence of weight, body composition, physical activity, isometric strength, VO2max, and nutritional intake on BMD was measured at multiple sites using different techniques. Further bone markers (Osteocalcin, CTX) were determined. Activity and weight-bearing activity were assessed by questionnaire. Maximum strength was measured isometrically. Aerobic capacity was measured with an spirometric system in a stepwise treadmill test and dietary intake was monitored over 5 days.
Results: Slight relationships between physical activity, exercise, muscle strength and VO2max with bone parameters were determined by univariate analysis. After adjusting for confounding variables in a stepwise regression analysis, significant relationships with BMD measured at the hip or the spine could no longer be detected for physical activity, exercise, and physical fitness (strength indices, VO2max). The same was true for osteocalcin and CTX. Arm strength explained 4.5% of the variation of forearm BMD (DXA). At the calcaneal site, osteogenic exercise was significantly related to the quantitative ultrasound index (r2 = 0.27).
Conclusion: The isolated effect of habitual physical activity, unspecific exercise participation, and muscle strength on bone parameters is rather low in (early-) postmenopausal women.
Clinical relevance: Women at risk should take specific exercise programs into consideration rather than to increasing the amount of habitual physical activity.