Effect of exercise, body composition, and nutritional intake on bone parameters in male elite rock climbers

Int J Sports Med. 2006 Aug;27(8):653-9. doi: 10.1055/s-2005-872828. Epub 2006 Feb 1.


A low body mass index is considered essential for high performance in rock climbing; however its effect on bone may be negative. In this study we compared the BMD of competitive male rock climbers (n = 20) and age- and BMI-matched non-training controls (n = 11). Subjects with any medication or illness affecting bone metabolism or a family history of osteoporosis were not included in the analysis. Total body BMD was measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Quantitative computed tomographic scans were made from the femoral neck and the lumbar spine. Dietary intake was assessed by a 5-day protocol. BMD of the TB-scan was significantly higher in the climbers group for all sub-regions except the skull (p = 0.191) and the lower extremities (p = 0.079). Trabecular and cortical BMD of the LS were significantly higher (p = 0.036 and p = 0.004) in the climbers. The same was true for total (p = 0.005) and cortical (p = 0.002) BMD of the FN. Trabecular BMD (p = 0.054), CSA (p < 0.343) and cortical thickness (p = 0.065) of the FN was non-significantly higher for the climbers. Our study indicates that the effect of climbing on bone parameters PER SE is not detrimental in elite male athletes. Contrarily climbers demonstrated significantly higher BMD values at all loaded regions without "steal effects" at skeletal sites with low mechanical impact. Although we determined a moderately negative effect of low BMI on BMD we could not decide whether a low BMI value should be used as an exclusion criterion in high level climbing competitions as practized by the Austrian Sportclimbing Organization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Bone Density / physiology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Energy Intake / physiology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Mountaineering / physiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires