Research Review by Dr. Shawn Thistle©


Jan. 2005

Study Title:

Past and recent physical activity and bone mineral density in college-aged women


Ford MA, Bass MA, Turner LW, Mauromoustakos A, Graves BS

Publication Information:

Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2004; 18(3): 405-409


Osteoporosis has surpassed heart attack and cancer as the most serious condition that effects women. Osteoporosis is a serious bone disorder that causes premature disability in millions of women in North America.

There is growing evidence that osteoporosis is a "pediatric disease that does not become evident until old age" [p. 405]. That is, what women do from an exercise and nutrition standpoint in their younger years profoundly affects their future incidence of this condition. It is now thought that women reach peak bone mass at around 16 years of age, so early lifestyle habits obviously play an important role in peak bone mineral density (BMD).

The authors of this study sought to investigate the influence of physical activity on BMD in college-aged women. Surveys were administered to 157 female volunteers (average age = 21) to assess physical activity levels, and BMD and body composition were measure with DEXA scanning and densitometry. Then, activity levels were correlated with results of the BMD testing to evaluate the relationship between these two factors.

Results showed a protective effect of exercise in preventing premature osteopenia in the spine and femur (two of the most commonly affected areas).

Conclusions & Practical Application:

This small, simple study demonstrated a protective effect from exercise in preventing premature bone loss in college-aged females.

Children in today's society are less active than previous generations. Technology, television, and other factors have contributed to this decline in activity. It seems intuitive that participation in sports and exercise would promote the development of a stronger body, including stronger bones. This study supports this theory and provides evidence that BMD specifically can benefit from exercise participation.

It is the responsibility of parents, educators, and policy-makers to ensure that physical exercise and education are encouraged at home and in leisure time, as well as maintained and promoted within the educational system.