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Exercise In Childhood Provides Lifelong Benefits

According to a Journal of Bone and Mineral Research study by Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) researchers, exercise when young may reduce risk of// fractures later in life. The study is now available in an advance online edition of the journal and will appear in a print edition in 2007.

'Our study demonstrates that exercise when young may reduce the risk of fractures later in life, and the old exercise adage of 'use it or lose it' may not be entirely applicable to the skeleton,' said the study's principal investigator, Stuart J. Warden, assistant professor and director of research in physical therapy at the Indiana University School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at IUPUI.

Researchers exercised the right forearms of 5-week-old female rats for a few minutes three times a week for seven weeks. The left forearms were not exercised. Bone quantity and structure of the rats' right and left forearms were assessed before and after exercise.

Researchers did not exercise the rats for the next 92 weeks -- virtually their entire lifespan. At that point, their forearm bones were assessed again for bone quantity and structure, as well as strength. All procedures were performed following approval of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee of Indiana University.

'We knew that exercise increases bone size and strength, and that the skeleton is most responsive to exercise during the crucial growing years around puberty when you reach adult size and strength,' Warden said. 'We also knew that bones are not as responsive to exercise when you are older.'

What was not known, however, was if the skeletal benefits of exercising while young would last a lifetime, Warden said. In other words, he said, 'can you use activity while young to offset the risk of osteoporosis, or the risk of bone fractures, later in life'

The study determined the answer to that question is, 'Yes,' Warden said.
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