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The effect of moderate impact exercise on skeletal integrity in master athletes

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We measured bone mineral density (BMD) in senior athletes competing in running and swimming events and compared results to those of sedentary controls. Total body BMD was greatest among runners suggesting that moderate impact activities continue to play a role in maintaining skeletal integrity with age.


The role of moderate impact exercise in maintaining skeletal integrity as we age remains unclear.


To determine the effect of moderate impact exercise on skeletal integrity in the elderly, we recruited master athletes, including 44 runners (moderate impact exercise) and 43 swimmers, competing in the 2005 National Senior Olympic Games and 87 non-athletes, all over the age of 65 years. Height, weight, calcium, vitamin D intake, bone mineral density (BMD) of the total body, spine, hip (total hip, femoral neck, trochanter, intertrochanter), forearm (1/3 distal radius), and heel ultrasound, and Z-scores were characterized by mean +/- SD and compared by analysis of variance. T-scores were used to determine sites of osteopenia and osteoporosis.


Total body BMD of runners was significantly greater than that of controls (1.11 ± 0.13 versus 1.10 ± 0.13 g/cm2, p < 0.05) and marginally greater than that of swimmers when adjusted for age and weight. Heel ultrasound bone mass of runners was significantly greater than that of swimmers or controls. Runners also had higher BMD in the total hip, intertrochanter and 1/3 distal radius when compared to swimmers.


These findings suggest that moderate impact exercise contributes to skeletal integrity in older age.

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The authors thank the nursing, professional, laboratory, dietary, administrative, and study staff of the Montefiore Clinical and Translational Research Center and Osteoporosis Prevention and Treatment Center at the University of Pittsburgh as well as the Pepper Center.


Grant support in part by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (K24 DK062895) to Dr. Greenspan, the Clinical and Translational Research Center of the University of Pittsburgh by the National Institutes of Health and the National Center for Research Resources (M01-RR00056), as well as the National Institute of Health (P30AG024827, T32-AG021885) to Dr. Stephanie Studenski.

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Correspondence to S. L. Greenspan.

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Velez, N.F., Zhang, A., Stone, B. et al. The effect of moderate impact exercise on skeletal integrity in master athletes. Osteoporos Int 19, 1457–1464 (2008).

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