European Journal of Epidemiology

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 153–157

Physical activity and bone mineral density in Italian middle-aged women


  • Ettore Bidoli
    • Servizio di Epidemiologia, Centro di Riferimento Oncologico
  • Domenico Schinella
    • Divisione di Emodialisi e NefrologiaAzienda Ospedaliera ‘S. Maria degli Angeli’
  • Silvia Franceschi
    • Servizio di Epidemiologia, Centro di Riferimento Oncologico

DOI: 10.1023/A:1007496126098

Cite this article as:
Bidoli, E., Schinella, D. & Franceschi, S. Eur J Epidemiol (1998) 14: 153. doi:10.1023/A:1007496126098


Osteoporosis is a major health issue in postmenopausal women on account of the association between low bone mineral density and fractures. A role of physical activity in the prevention and treatment of low bone mineral density is possible but still unclear. The relationship between low spine bone mineral density measured by means of dual photon absorptiometry at lumbar spines, and levels of past and recent physical activity has been assessed by means of a population-based screening study carried out on 1373 women (age 40–64 years) in the North-East of Italy. Physical activity at work and in leisure time was investigated for three specific periods of life: at age 12, between 15 and 19 years (during bone formative years), and in the recent years prior to the interview (30–39 or 50–59 years). Data were analysed comparing low versus high bone mineral density tertile (i.e., 458 and 461 women, respectively), after controlling for other known contributory factors in the development of osteoporosis. A positive association emerged with leisure time physical activity, with significant trends at age 15–19 (odds ratio (OR) for low versus high tertile of leisure time activity: 1.4, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.8–2.4) and at most recent age (OR: 1.7, 95% CI: 1.1–2.6). Risk trends with occupational physical activity were less clear and non-statistically significant. The present Southern European cross-sectional study lends further support to the possibility that past and recent physical activity helps increasing bone mineral density in middle-aged women. Although the most beneficial type and intensity level of exercise has yet to be determined, the present results provide further evidence that participation in even moderate exercise programs should be encouraged.

Bone mineral densityPhysical activity

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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998