Adolescent Sports Activities Boost Bone Health in Older Adults New Study Shows

Research suggests that physical activity during adolescence can prevent osteoporosis as we get older.
The process of bone renewal and repair, which reaches its peak at the age of 20, slows down with age, leading to reduced strength and an increased risk of fractures: This deterioration of bone tissue, known as osteoporosis, affects almost 3 in ten women aged 65 and over according to the CDC.Basketball

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However, according to a recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology, it is possible to prevent the disease by practicing good sports from an early age.

Exercise during adolescence strengthens bone mass

Although previous studies had already shown that “a 10% increase in peak bone mass during adolescence could delay osteoporosis for up to 13 years,” researchers at Juntendo University in Japan wanted to gain more insight into the long-term effects of sports on bone health.

To do this, they used a cohort of 1,596 people between 65 and 84 years old to assess their physical fitness, their levels of blood biomarkers (such as vitamin D), and their bone mineral density (BMD) in the femoral neck (upper region of the femur) and lumbar spine (lower region of the spine). Participants were also asked to complete questionnaires about their childhood sports activities, lifestyle habits, medical history, and any treatments they had undergone.

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The results showed that older people who participated in “high-impact” sports activities during adolescence experienced “improved bone mineral density and bone health later in life,” according to Eurekalert. Basketball, for example, was associated with “significantly higher” femoral BMD in older men and women, while volleyball and swimming were associated with “denser” lumbar spine bone mass in women.

High BMD in adolescence prevents osteoporosis in older age

“Exercise in adolescence affects BMD more than 50 years later in older people,” sums up Professor Yoshifumi Tamura, lead author of the study. And you don’t have to have been an athlete: the health benefits apply to the entire general population who participated in physical activity at school.
“BMD is difficult to increase once it has decreased,” the researcher concludes. Therefore, it is important to increase peak bone mass during adolescence to maintain BMD as we age. Our study highlights the importance of exercise during adolescence to prevent osteoporosis and provides scientific evidence for establishing early preventive measures.”

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References

Otsuka, H., Tabata, H., Shi, H., Sugimoto, M., Kaga, H., Someya, Y., Naito, H., Ito, N., Abudurezake, A., Umemura, F., Tajima, T., Kakehi, S., Yoshizawa, Y., Ishijima, M., Kawamori, R., Watada, H., & Tamura, Y. (2023). Playing basketball and volleyball during adolescence is associated with higher bone mineral density in old age: The Bunkyo Health Study. Frontiers in Physiology, 10. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2023.1227639

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