The objective of this study was an integrated cross-sectional investigation for answering the question whether differences in bone mineral density in elderly postmenopausal women are associated with differences in habitual physical activity and unspecific exercise levels. Two hundred and ninety nine elderly women (69-/+3 years), without diseases or medication affecting bone metabolism were investigated. The influence of weight, body composition and physical activity on BMD was measured at multiple sites using different techniques (DXA, QCT, and QUS). Physical activity and exercise level were assessed by questionnaire, maximum strength of the legs and aerobic capacity. Variations in physical activity or habitual exercise had no effect on bone. The only significant univariate relation between strength/VO(2)max and BMD/BMC that remained after adjusting for confounding variables was between arm BMD (DXA) and hand-grip strength. The most important variable for explaining BMD was weight and for cortical BMC of the femur (QCT) lean body mass. Weight and lean body mass emerge as predominant predictors of BMD in normal elderly women, whereas the isolated effect of habitual physical activity, unspecific exercise participation, and muscle strength on bone parameters is negligible. Thus, an increase in the amount of habitual physical activity will probably have no beneficial impact on bone.