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Childhood Exercise and Activity Vital to Bone Development

Although it’s well documented that exercise is known to increase bone development in teenagers, there haven’t been any studies conducted to determine what effect exercise or low-impact everyday activities have on bone development prior to the adolescent years.

A recent study published in Pediatricsis among the first to examine the effect of exercise and everyday activities on the bone density in young children.

Researchers examined the relationship between physical activity and bone measurements of 368, four-to-six-year-olds. A combination of motion readings and parental reports, on activity levels and hours watching TV, were used. Bone density and bone mineral content were measured for the entire skeleton, specifically at the hip and spine.

Parents rated their children’s activity levels by reporting how many hours each day were spent watching TV, and a motion-recording belt was attached to keep track of how much time was spent being physically active.

Results of the study show that four-to-six-year-olds with high motion levels and physical activity levels were associated with higher bone density and mineral content in both boys and girls — hipbone density was 12% higher among the active children than inactive children.  

Hours watching television also affected bone development. Girls who watched more television tended to have lower bone densities than those who watched less.

The study also noted that boys may have higher bone densities than girls because they engage in a greater and more vigorous level of physical activities.

SOURCE: “Physical Activity Strengthens Children’s Bones,” To Your Health Newsletter,, August 1, 2001.