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Active Children Are Less Likely to Suffer From Fractures Later On in Life

Update Date: Mar 25, 2013 01:48 PM EDT

Not only does physical activity help with obesity and promote cognitive abilities, constant exercise can strengthen the bones and lower the chances for fractures later on in life. According to a research study done in Sweden, children can significantly improve their bone strength if they perform daily physical activities. At the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine's Specialty Day in Chicago, IL, the researchers revealed that children who had 40 minutes of daily exercise had a lower risk for bone fractures when compared to those who did not.

The study done at the Skane University Hospital from Malmo, Sweden recruited 808 girls and boys from the ages of seven to nine. The six-year long study observed the participants' skeletal development and recorded cases of bone fractures in two groups. The first group composed of children who were asked to perform 40 minutes of exercise every day.  The second group of children acted as the control group and did 60 minutes of physical activity per week.

The researchers reported that the children in the experimental group had a total of 72 bone fractures, where as the control group had a total of 143 fractures. The children who performed daily physical activities had a higher bone density in the spine when compared to the children who did not have daily exercise. Bone density is important in understanding fractures because density is indicative of bone strength. The children who had higher levels of bone density appeared to have stronger and sturdier bones that can last to adulthood and can possibly slow down the natural weakening process of the bones that come with old age.

In order to determine if daily exercise indeed has long term effects on bones, the researchers also looked at 708 male athletes in their 60s to 70s. They measured their fracture rates and bone density levels and compared them to men around the same ages who were not former athletes and did not exercise that often in the past. The researchers found that the former athletes had a slower rate of bone density loss in comparison to the non-athletic participants, which suggests that the ex-athletes' bones had a lower risk for fractures.

"According to our study, exercise intervention in childhood may be associated with lower fracture risks as people age, due to the increases in peak bone mass that occurs in growing children who perform regular physical activity," the head researcher, Dr. Bjorn Rosengren stated. "Increased activity in the younger ages helped induce higher bone mass and improve skeletal size in girls without increasing the fracture risk. Our study highlights yet another reason why kids need to get regular daily exercise to improve their health both now and in the future."

This study suggests that if children learn to be accustomed to daily physical activities, they would continue this level of activity into their adulthood, which is extremely beneficial for the children's overall health. If children can start protecting their bones now, why wait till later. 

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