Childhood Exercise May Reduce Fracture Risk In Old Age

If you exercise as a child, you develop stronger bones that are more resistant to breaking when you're older. Swedish Dr. Bjorn Rosengren and his team presented the results of their new research at last week's American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine's Specialty Day in Chicago.

Part of the study was conducted on children between the ages of seven and nine who lived in Sweden. One group of 808 children received 40 minutes of physical education every day at school. The control group of nearly 1,600 kids got a mere 60 minutes of PE every week. The group that enjoyed 200 minutes of exercise a week had measurably higher bone mineral density than the controls.

The second half of the study compared over 700 69-year-old former athletes to over 1,300 70-year-old non-athletes. While the non-athletes had experienced the normal bone loss that comes with aging, the former athletes had only a "minimal" bone loss.

As we learn more about how to build strong bones earlier in life, hip fractures are declining. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that since 1990, the rate of hip fractures has declined in men over age 85 and in women over age 75.

However, in an aging population, they are still a serious concern -- especially because the consequences can be so severe in fragile seniors. The CDC warned that one out of five people who experience a hip fracture will die within a year of the injury.

Since you can't go back in time, you may be frustrated to hear that exercising as a child would have lowered your risk. However, adults can still make lifestyle changes that benefit their bones. Make sure you get enough vitamin D, try to quit smoking if you possibly can, and drink alcohol only in moderation.

And if you have young children, encourage them to start exercising early.

[photo courtesy Derek Jensen and Wikipedia Commons]