The effect of swimming activity on bone architecture in growing rats

J Biomech. 1989;22(8-9):845-51. doi: 10.1016/0021-9290(89)90068-7.


The effect of non-habitual physical activity on bone architecture in the rat humeral shaft was examined. Two groups of rats were trained to swim for 1 h a day, for 20 weeks, at two training levels. The control group consisted of sedentary rats. Parameters of cross-sectional bone morphology (cross-section areas, principal area moments of inertia and their ratio) were used to evaluate the response of bone architecture to mechanical loading. The strength of bone was assessed by measuring the ultimate compressive force and stress. The cortical cross-section area and principal moments of inertia were found to be significantly higher in the swimming groups than in the controls. Examination of the ratio between the major and minor moments of inertia revealed a pronounced change in the shape of the bone cross-section which became more rounded following swimming training. The ultimate compressive force was significantly higher in the swimming rats while the changes in ultimate stress were not significant. Our results indicate a gain of bone strength due to increased periosteal apposition and modified bone tissue distribution. The marked changes in bone morphology are attributed to the different nature of the forces and moments exerted on the humerus during swimming compared to those prevailing during normal locomotion.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Humerus / anatomy & histology
  • Humerus / growth & development
  • Humerus / physiology*
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal
  • Rats
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Swimming*
  • Tensile Strength / physiology*
  • Time Factors