Osteoporosis International

, Volume 27, Issue 5, pp 1785–1793 | Cite as

Swimming and bone: Is low bone mass due to hypogravity alone or does other physical activity influence it?

  • A. Gómez-Bruton
  • A. González-Agüero
  • A. Gómez-Cabello
  • A. Matute-Llorente
  • J. A. Casajús
  • G. Vicente-Rodríguez
Original Article



Swimming during adolescence has shown neutral or even negative effects on bone mass. Nevertheless, it is still unknown if these effects are due to swimming or to other factors, such as sedentary behaviors.


Three objectives were described (1) to measure objective physical activity (PA) additional to swimming performed by adolescent swimmers (SWI) and compare it to that performed by normo-active controls (CG), (2) to describe the relationship between objectively measured PA and bone mass, and (3) to compare bone mass of swimmers that meet the World Health Organization PA guidelines (active) WHO and those that do not (inactive).


A total of 71 SWI (33 females) and 41 CG (17 females) wore an accelerometer for at least 4 days. PA was expressed as the amount of time (minutes/day) in each intensity [sedentary/light/moderate or vigorous (VPA), and the sum of moderate and vigorous (MVPA)]. Using the cutoff points proposed by Vanhelst et al. SWI were classified as active or inactive according to whether they reached 60 min of weight-bearing MVPA per day or not. Bone mineral density (BMD) was measured by dual energy X-ray absorptiometry, and bone strength values were calculated with peripheral quantitative computed tomography. Differences in PA intensities were calculated between SWI and CG. The relation of VPA to bone mass was studied in the SWI.


Male-SWI spend less time in VPA and MVPA than male-GC, which partly explains the lower BMD values in SWI than CG.


Swimming may displace weight-bearing VPA with serious implications on bone health.


Accelerometry Bone mass DXA pQCT Swimming 



We would like to thank the participants and their families and coaches for their collaboration. Special thanks are given to Kenn Konstabell from the National Institute for Health Development of Estonia for his help with the statistical analyses and to Lindsey A. Bruton from the University San Jorge of Spain for her work in reviewing the English style and grammar. This work was supported by the Spanish “Ministerio de Economia y competitividad’ ‘Plan Nacional I + D + i 2008–2011 (Project DEP2011-29093)”. This project has been co-financed by “Fondo Europeo de Desarrollo Regional” (MICINN-FEDER). AGB received a Grant FPI 2012 (BES-2012-051888) from the “Ministerio Economía y Competitividad”. AML received a Grant AP12-02854 from the “Ministerio de Educación Cultura y Deportes”.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethics statement

Written informed consent was obtained from parents and adolescents. The study was performed following the ethical guidelines of the Declaration of Helsinki 1961 (revised in Fortaleza, 2013). The study protocol was approved by the Ethics Committee of Clinical Research from the Government of Aragón (ref. CP08/2012, CEICA, Spain).Of the 235 informed consent forms delivered, a total of 173 were returned signed and agreed to participate in the study (98 SWI and 75 controls).

Conflicts of interest



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Copyright information

© International Osteoporosis Foundation and National Osteoporosis Foundation 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Gómez-Bruton
    • 1
    • 2
  • A. González-Agüero
    • 1
    • 3
  • A. Gómez-Cabello
    • 1
    • 4
  • A. Matute-Llorente
    • 1
    • 2
  • J. A. Casajús
    • 1
    • 2
  • G. Vicente-Rodríguez
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.GENUD “Growth, Exercise, NUtrition and Development” Research Group, Grupo GENUDUniversity of ZaragozaZaragozaSpain
  2. 2.Faculty of Health and Sport Sciences (FCSD), Department of Physiatry and NursingUniversity of ZaragozaHuescaSpain
  3. 3.Department of Sport and Exercise ScienceAberystwyth UniversityCeredigionUK
  4. 4.Centro Universitario de la DefensaZaragozaSpain

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