High-Impact Exercise Improves Adolescent Bone Strength

Posted by Admin on June 29, 2011
Exercises that involve high impact movements like jumping and skipping have been found to have the greatest benefits for adolescent bone health. A simple ten minute school based intervention, provided twice a week for eight weeks, resulted in a noticeable improvement in bone and muscle strength among healthy teenagers when compared to routine warmup activities.

Physiotherapist Ben Weeks said the high impact warmup, which included jumps and lunges of increasing complexity and repetition, were designed to stimulate skeletal growth. Near the end of the study, students had the capacity to do about 300 jumps per session.

According to Weeks, nearly eighty percent of a person’s bone mass is developed in the first 20 years, especially around the age of puberty due to increased hormone production. This study examines a window of opportunity in a child’s development to maximize bone mass growth by introducing high-intensity, weight-bearing exercise.

The study of nearly 100 participants with an average age of almost 14, discovered that boys in the intervention group were able to improve their entire body bone mass while girls’ bone mass gains were specifically in the areas of the hip and spine. Weeks claims that this gender-specific response to the program was directly related to the early physical development of girls reaching maturity earlier than boys.

Weeks also recognized that the improved bone strength found in girls’ hips and spines was promising since these were the areas at greatest risk for osteoporotic fractures amongst the elderly. Although the study indicated that a simple exercise intervention program can result in appreciable skeletal development in adolescents, Weeks suggests that larger, longitudinal studies are necessary. He believes it’s still uncertain whether these bone benefits would continue through adulthood and reduce the risk of future fractures.

Further studies have shown that exercise, not supplements, offer the greatest benefits for bone health. A study published in the Cochrane Systematic Review found that giving vitamin D supplements to health children with normal vitamin D did not improve bone density at the hip, lumbar spine, forearm or in the entire body as a whole.

Lead researcher, Dr. Tania Winzenber of the Menzies Research Institute Tasmania, states that vitamin D intervention had no statistically noticeable effects on bone density at any site in health children. However, she notes that there was some indication that children with low levels of vitamin D in their blood may benefit from supplementation.

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