Effects of physical activity, body weight and composition, and muscular strength on bone density in young women


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise:
Basic Sciences: Epidemiology

Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between body weight and composition, muscular strength, physical activity, and bone mineral density (BMD) in eumenorrheic college-aged women.

Methods: BMD and bone mineral content (BMC) of the total body, and BMD of the lumbar spine (L2-L4) and femoral neck (via dual energy x-ray absorptiometry), as well as body composition and muscular strength, were measured in 60 college-aged women. The women were divided into three groups: 1) low body weight athletes involved in weight-bearing, collegiate sports (N = 20), 2) matched low body weight and sedentary (N = 20), and 3) average body weight and sedentary (N = 20). All groups were matched for height, age, and age at menarche.

Results: The athletes had significantly greater (P < 0.05) (mean± SD) total body BMD (1.164 ± 0.06 g·cm-2), L2-L4 BMD (1.240 ± 0.13 g·cm-2), femoral neck BMD (1.144± 0.13 g·cm-2) and total body BMC (2.44 ± 0.30 kg) than the low body weight, sedentary (LWS) group, but were only greater than the average body weight sedentary group (AWS) for femoral neck BMD. Significant correlations were found between lean body mass (LBM) and all BMD variables (P < 0.001). A significant correlation (P< 0.01) was found between fat mass and all BMD variables in the sedentary subjects alone (N = 40), but with inclusion of the athletes(N = 60), none of the correlations between fat mass and BMD were significant. Arm and leg strength isometric torque values corrected for muscle+ bone cross-sectional area (M + B CSA) were not significantly different between the athletes and LWS group, but the athletes were greater (P< 0.05) than the AWS group for both arm and leg strength/M + B CSA. No significant, site-specific correlations were found between strength/M + B and BMD.

Conclusions: In summary, the athletes had significantly greater BMD, BMC, and LBM than the LWS group and, except for a greater femoral neck BMD, similar BMD, BMC, and LBM as the AWS group. These results suggest that LBM and weight-bearing exercise both enhance BMD in eumenorrheic young adult women.

Author Information

Human Performance Laboratory, Department of Exercise Science, University of California Davis, Davis, CA; and USDA Western Human Nutrition Research Center, Bioenergetics Research Unit, Presidio of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

Submitted for publication May 1996.

Accepted for publication July 1997.

©1998The American College of Sports Medicine