Calcified Tissue International

, Volume 49, Supplement 1, pp S50–S54

Physical activity effects on bone metabolism

  • Everett L. Smith
  • Catherine Gilligan
Factors Affecting Bone Metabolism and Osteoporosis

DOI: 10.1007/BF02555089

Cite this article as:
Smith, E.L. & Gilligan, C. Calcif Tissue Int (1991) 49(Suppl 1): S50. doi:10.1007/BF02555089


The incidence of osteoporotic fractures rises exponentially with age and is increasing faster than the demographic increase in the aging population. Physical activity has great potential to reduce the risk for osteoporotic fractures. Three independent but interactive factors contribute to the risk of fractures: bone strength, the risk of falling, and the effectiveness of neuromuscular response that protects the skeleton from injury. Exercise can reduce fracture risk not only by preventing bone loss, but by decreasing the risk of falling and the force of impact by improving strength, flexibility, balance, and reaction time. Extreme inactivity causes rapid bone loss of up to 40%, while athletic activity results in bone hypertrophy of up to 40%. Exercise intervention programs have reduced bone loss or increased bone mass in both men and women of various ages and initial bone status. These benefits have been shown for arm bone mineral content, total body calcium, spine, calcium bone index, tibia, and calcaneus. In both middle-aged and elderly women, physical activity intervention reduced bone loss or increased bone mass. The mechanisms for maintenance of skeletal integrity rely on a cellular response to hormonal and mechanical load stimuli. Studies in animal models show that training affects cellular activity. In osteoporotics, cellular erosion is increased and mineral apposition rate (MAR) decreased compared with normal age-matched controls. In contrast to this, sows trained on a treadmill 20 min per day for 20 weeks had greater active periosteal surface, periosteal MAR, and osteonal MAR than untrained sows.

Key words

Bone mineral density Exercise Osteoporosis Bone histology 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Everett L. Smith
    • 1
  • Catherine Gilligan
    • 1
  1. 1.Biogerontology Laboratory, Department of Preventive MedicineUniversity of WisconsinMadisonUSA

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