Background: Osteoporosis and postmenopausal bone loss pose a huge social and economic burden worldwide. Regular exercise and physical activity are effective interventions for maximizing or maintaining peak bone mass and preventing bone loss in the elderly; however, most recommendations are addressed to the general public and lack specific indications for girls and women, the segment of the population most at risk for developing osteoporosis.
Objective: The aim of this overview of systematic reviews and meta-analyses was to summarize current evidence for the effects of exercise and physical activity interventions on bone status in girls and women, and to explore whether specific exercise programs exist for improving or maintaining bone mass or bone strength in females.
Methods: The PubMed, EMBASE, PEDro, and Cochrane Library databases were searched from January 2009, updated to 22 June 2015, using the following groups of search terms: (i) 'physical activity' and 'exercise'; and (ii) 'bone', 'bone health', 'bone strength', 'bone structure', 'bone metabolism', 'bone turnover', and 'bone biomarkers'. Searches and screening were limited to systematic reviews or meta-analyses of studies in females and published in English. Our final analysis included 12 articles that met the inclusion criteria.
Results: Combined-impact exercise protocols (impact exercise with resistance training) are the best choice to preserve/improve bone mineral density in pre- and postmenopausal women. Peak bone mass in young girls can be improved with short bouts of school-based high-impact plyometric exercise programs. Whole-body vibration exercises have no beneficial effects on bone in postmenopausal or elderly women.
Conclusions and implications: Lifelong exercise, specific for age, is an effective way to sustain bone health in girls and women.