Background Physical activity improves bone strength and reduces the risk for osteoporotic fractures. However, there are substantial gaps in our knowledge as to when, how and how much activity is optimal for bone health.
Purpose In this cohort study, we examined developmental trajectories of objectively measured physical activity from childhood to adolescence to discern if moderate-and-vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA) predicts bone strength.
Methods Starting at age 5 and continuing at 8, 11, 13, 15 and 17 years, Iowa Bone Development Study participants (n=530) wore an accelerometer for 3–5 days. At age 17, we assessed dual X-ray energy absorptiometry outcomes of mass and estimated geometry (femoral neck cross-sectional area and section modulus). We also assessed geometric properties (bone stress index and polar moment of inertia) of the tibia using peripheral computer quantitative tomography. Latent class modelling was used to construct developmental trajectories of MVPA from childhood to late adolescence. General linear models were used to examine the trajectory groups as predictors of age 17 bone outcomes.
Results Girls and boys who accumulated the most MVPA had greater bone mass and better geometry at 17 years when compared to less active peers. The proportion of participants achieving high levels of MVPA throughout childhood was very low (<6% in girls) and by late adolescence almost all girls were inactive.
Conclusions Bone health benefits of physical activity are not being realised due to low levels of activity for most youth, especially in girls.
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