Early physical activity provides sustained bone health benefits later in childhood

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 Jun;42(6):1072-8. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181c619b2.


Purpose: This study examined the potential effect of early childhood moderate and vigorous physical activity (MVPA) on later bone health.

Methods: Three hundred and thirty-three children, participating in the Iowa Bone Development Study, were studied at ages 5, 8, and 11 yr. MVPA (min x d(-1)) was measured using an accelerometry-based physical activity monitor. Bone mineral content (BMC; g) of the whole body, lumbar spine, and hip was measured using dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry. Mixed regression models were used to test whether MVPA at age 5 yr had an effect on BMC at ages 8 and 11 yr after adjustment for concurrent height, weight, age, maturity, and MVPA. The analysis was repeated to control for bone outcomes at age 5 yr. Mixed-model least-squares mean values at the person level of covariates for age group were used to compare the BMC at ages 8 and 11 yr of children in the highest and lowest quartiles of MVPA at age 5 yr.

Results: For boys and girls, MVPA at age 5 yr predicted BMC adjusted for concurrent height, weight, age, maturity, and MVPA at ages 8 and 11 yr (P < 0.05). When the analysis was repeated to also control for BMC at age 5 yr, the effect of MVPA at age 5 yr was significant for boys but not for girls. Boys and girls in the highest quartile of MVPA at age 5 yr had 4%-14% more BMC at ages 8 and 11 yr than those in the lowest quartile of MVPA at age 5 yr (P < 0.05).

Conclusions: These results provide support for the benefits of early MVPA on sustained bone health during childhood especially for boys. Results indicate the importance of increasing MVPA as a strategy to improve BMC later in childhood.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Bone Density / physiology*
  • Child
  • Child Development / physiology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Monitoring, Ambulatory
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sex Factors