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Mark R. Forwood

Experiments to design physical activity programs that optimize their osteogenic potential are difficult to accomplish in humans. The aim of this article is to review the contributions that animal studies have made to knowledge of the loading conditions that are osteogenic to the skeleton during growth, as well as to consider to what extent animal studies fail to provide valid models of physical activity and skeletal maturation. Controlled loading studies demonstrate that static loads are ineffective, and that bone formation is threshold driven and dependent on strain rate, amplitude, and duration of loading. Only a few loading cycles per session are required, and distributed bouts are more osteogenic than sessions of long duration. Finally, animal models fail to inform us of the most appropriate ways to account for the variations in biological maturation that occur in our studies of children and adolescents, requiring the use of techniques for studying human growth and development.