Physically active children may be at lower risk for fractures when they grow older, according to a new study from Sweden. The findings add to evidence that regular daily exercise can improve children's health now and in the future, the researchers said.
"Exercise interventions in childhood may be associated with lower fracture risks as people age, due to the increase in peak bone mass that occurs in growing children who perform regular physical activity," the study's lead author, Dr. Bjorn Rosengren, of Skane University Hospital in Malmo, said in a news release.
The study involved more than 2,300 children living in Sweden ranging in age from 7 to 9 years old. The researchers assigned 362 girls and 446 boys to receive 40 minutes of daily physical education at school. Meanwhile, about 800 girls and 800 boys in a control group received the standard 60 minutes of physical education per week.
The study's authors followed the children and monitored their skeletal development, recording any incidents involving broken bones. Over the course of the study, they found that a similar percentage of children had fractures in each group.
But the study also showed the boys and girls in the daily exercise group had greater bone mineral density than the children in the control group.
Meanwhile, the researchers compared the rates of fractures and bone density loss of about 700 former male athletes who were an average of 69 years old with those of nearly 1,400 non-athletes who were an average of 70. They found that bone mineral density among the former athletes dropped only minimally compared to the control group.
"Increased activity in the younger ages helped induce higher bone mass and improve skeletal size in girls without increasing the fracture risk," Rosengren said. "Our study highlights yet another reason why kids need to get regular daily exercise to improve their health both now and in the future."
The study's findings were scheduled for Saturday presentation in Chicago by the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. Data and conclusions presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.