The Positive Relationship between Moderate-to-Vigorous Physical Activity and Bone Mineral Content Is Not Mediated by Free Leptin Index in Prepubertal Children: The PANIC Study

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 May 18;18(10):5365. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18105365.


Purpose: Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) positively influences bone mineral content (BMC) in prepubertal children, but it is unknown whether this relationship is partially mediated by free leptin index. The aim of this study was to examine whether the relationship between MVPA and total body less head (TBLH) BMC is mediated or moderated by free leptin index in prepubertal children.

Methods: We performed a cross-sectional analysis on 401 children (194 girls) from baseline examinations of the Physical Activity and Nutrition in Childhood Study. We applied the four-way decomposition mediation analysis method to assess whether free leptin index, measured from fasted blood samples, mediated the relationship between accelerometer-measured MVPA and TBLH BMC measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry.

Results: MVPA had a positive controlled direct effect on TBLH BMC in girls and boys (β = 0.010 to 0.011, p < 0.05). There was no mediation or interaction between MVPA, free leptin index and TBLH BMC in girls or boys (β = -0.000 to 0.001, p > 0.05).

Conclusion: Our study indicates that MVPA positively influences TBLH BMC through pathways not related to free leptin index in predominantly normal-weight prepubertal children, likely primarily through mechanical loading. The relationships between MVPA, free leptin index and TBLH BMC may be influenced by other factors such as pubertal status and adiposity, so it is unknown whether these observations extend to overweight and obese children at different stages of puberty.

Keywords: DXA; accelerometery; bone mass; childhood; free leptin index; growth; prepubertal age.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Bone Density*
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leptin*
  • Male


  • Leptin