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Bone-building exercise benefits not permanent

Athletic young men may lose the extra bone mineral density (BMD) they have accumulated if they reduce their physical activity levels as they age.

Bone-building exercise benefits not permanent

Athletic young men may lose the extra bone mineral density (BMD) they have accumulated if they reduce their physical activity levels as they age. Weight bearing exercises are known to build bone density, especially in youth. But whether or not bone strength is preserved if people's activity levels decline as they grow older is not clear. To investigate this, researches from Sweden followed 92 young men for 12 years, measuring BMD at five different time points at the femoral neck (which connects the ball that joins with the hip socket to the shaft of the thigh bone), the total body, and the lumbar spine. Among the participants, sixty-seven men were active athletes training in ice hockey or badminton, and the rest served as a control group. The men's average age at the beginning of the study was 17 years. The participants had begun training when they were about 7 years old. Fifty-one athletes had stopped training during the study's follow-up period. It was found that active athletes had higher BMDs than the control group. The athletes who stopped training had higher BMDs than the control group as well, except at the final follow up visit. Moreover, from the beginning to the end of the study, the ex-athletes lost more BMD in their femoral neck than either the active athletes or the control group. Within 8 years after active training ended, on average, the added BMD the former athletes had built had disappeared. Based on the above findings, the researchers warned that increased BMD due to previous high levels of physical activity may not prevent the brittle bone disease osteoporosis in later years.
Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
December 2008
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