Effect of physical activity on bone mineralization in premature infants

J Pediatr. 1995 Oct;127(4):620-5. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3476(95)70127-3.


Objective: A 4-week pilot study was done with 26 preterm infants to evaluate whether a physical activity program would result in greater bone mineralization.

Design: Subjects were matched by birth weight, gender, and gestational age, and randomly assigned to the physical activity program (group EX; n = 13) or to the control group (group C; n = 13). Physical activity consisted of range of motion with passive resistance to all extremities for 5 to 10 minutes daily. Baseline and 4-week values were determined for both bone mineral analyses and serum levels of calcium, phosphate, alkaline phosphatase, parathyroid hormone, and 25-hydroxy-vitamin D.

Results: Despite similar nutrient intake at advised levels for preterm infants, EX infants gained more weight than control subjects (17.8 vs 13.4 gm/kg body weight per day; p = 0.01). A difference in radial bone mass and density change as determined by single-beam photon absorptiometry (+/- 2% error) was found between groups (p = 0.006 by analysis of covariance). Changes in bone width and in bone mineral content and density were enhanced by physical activity. Group EX infants had 12%, 18%, and 34% gains in bone width and in bone mineral density and content, respectively; group C infants had only a 2% gain in bone width and 11% and 14% losses from baseline in bone mineral content and density, respectively, during the 4-week study. Serum biochemical values were similar in the groups except for lower alkaline phosphatase levels in group EX. There was a negative association between bone mineral content and parathyroid hormone values: r = -0.83, p = 0.01.

Conclusions: A physical activity program may increase the effects of adequate nutrition in healthy preterm very low birth weight infants by promoting weight gain and bone mass and by decreasing the risk of osteopenia.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Alkaline Phosphatase / blood
  • Anthropometry
  • Body Weight
  • Bone Diseases, Metabolic / prevention & control
  • Calcification, Physiologic*
  • Energy Intake
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature / physiology*
  • Male
  • Parathyroid Hormone / physiology


  • Parathyroid Hormone
  • Alkaline Phosphatase