It turns out that strengthening bone to avoid fractures starts at a very young age.
Physical activity, such as the exercise children get in school gym classes, is important for fighting obesity, but the latest research suggests it may help to keep bones strong as well.
Researchers found that children in the group that exercised daily reported 72 fractures, while those who didn’t recorded 143 fractures. Those who were physically active for 40 minutes a day also showed higher bone density in the spine compared with those who did not exercise as much. Bone density is an indication of bone strength, and the denser bone density is early in life, the stronger bones remain decades later, when natural thinning of bones weakens the skeleton and increases the risk of fractures and breaks.
The results confirm previous findings on the benefits for bone of regular exercise. One study found that compared with sedentary women, those who are the most active have the highest bone density and lowest risk of the bone-thinning disorder osteoporosis. Bones become more porous and brittle with age, as cells responsible for building bone become less active and can no longer keep up with the cells that destroy and remove old bone cells. Physical activity can shift this balance toward maintaining a healthy amount of bone growth, say experts.
So while fractures aren’t typically a problem for young children (unless they have a major fall), it’s never too early to start protecting against the future risk of bone problems. “With the current knowledge, we ought to recommend training in young years as a strategy to prevent fragility fractures at old ages,” the authors wrote in the study. Just one more reason for children to trade in the TV for a few laps around the track.