Although osteoporosis is considered a geriatric disease, factors affecting bone strength are most influential during child growth and development. This article reviews what is known and still unclear in terms of bone growth, development and adaptation relative to physical activity before and during puberty. Bone is responsive to certain exercise protocols early in puberty and less so in postpubertal years, where bone strength, rather than bone mass, being the outcome of interest. Mechanical loading and high impact exercise promote bone strength. Intense training before and during puberty, however, may negatively affect bone development. Future research should focus on increasing our mechanistic understanding of the manner by which diverse physical stressors alter the integrity of bone. Longitudinal studies that examine the extent to which muscle and bone are comodulated by growth in children are also recommended.
The author is with the Dept. of Kinesiology, Brock University, Ontario, Canada.