This new study has found teens who have a “couch potato” lifestyle risk having permanent negative effects on their bone structure and health.
About 36 per cent of the adult skeleton is developed during adolescence when growth spurts typically happen, states Orthopedics Prof. Heather McKay of the University of British Columbia, and physical activity is critical for developing bone strength and density.
The study worked with girls between the ages of 10 and 14, and boys between the ages of 12 and 16 that lasted four years, measuring their bone development and monitoring their activity.
The results showed that only 43 per cent of boys and nine per cent of girls were meeting the daily recommendation of 60 minutes of physical activity, and the amount of activity they participated in declined as they got older.
There have been more than 300 teens in the study. The study shows that those who were less active had significantly less bone strength than those who were active, increasing their risks for fractures throughout their lives and osteoporosis when they become older adults.
The professor says the findings signal concerns for the long-term health risks for youth, and serve as a reminder that physical activity is very important for skeletal healthl.
She stated in the interview: “We’re hitting a critical destruction point here in terms of the low levels of physical activity, so that is really sobering.”
McKay said that in older adults, even small fractures can be “life-limiting” for a person by hindering their mobility.
Preventing the risk of fractures begins with developing bone health in childhood and adolescence.
According to the professor, short spurts of exercise throughout the day or even one hour of exercise a day can have a positive impact on bone health in children and teens: “They’re such responsive tissue, they respond very quickly to what we do, and they respond very quickly to what we don’t do.”
The study in the future will explore whether there’s an optimal amount of activity or type of activity to strengthen bones in childhood. For now the results encourage physical activity for children and youth.
“Our bones respond to everything we do from the time we’re born and I think the investment has to happen now,” she said. “It’s absolutely worrying as to what we’ll confront as this generation ages.”