It is common knowledge that physical activity comes with many benefits for growing kids. It helps them to maintain a healthy weight, improves their fine and gross motor skills, and helps them to build stronger muscles. However, did you know that there is also a link between physical activity and bone in young children? Regular physical activity in childhood is important for enhancing bone strength during growth and development. Research has shown that children who exercise frequently have stronger bones and muscles than their peers who do not get as much exercise. In fact, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention recommend that children aged 6 to 17 engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity each day. Young children from the ages of 3 to 5 should be physically active throughout the day.
Why is this link important?
The human skeleton increases in size and density during the first 20 years of life. The National Institutes of Health state that up to 90% of the adult bone mass is attained in the teenage years. Bone strength is dependent on environmental, genetic, and behavioral factors which means that there is a lot you can do to encourage healthy bone development in your child. Your child’s muscles and bones are the framework of their growing body, and it is important to nurture them to allow for optimal growth and development. The two most important things for healthy bone development are a good diet and regular physical activity.
Why do children’s bone grow stronger with regular exercise?
Bones contain a network of cells called osteocytes. These osteocytes respond to mechanical stain and send signals for bone formation or bone resorption to the bone surface. Over time, this increases bone mass, resulting in stronger bones. Physical activity is crucial for creating this mechanical strain that stimulates the development of strong bones.
Multiple studies conducted by Dr. Michael Levine, from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, have found an association between physical activity and bone density. The studies have also proven that child athletes sport greater bone density, strength, and dimensions during growth. However, there is no need for your child to be an athlete if that is not where their interests lie. One hour of moderate physical activity every day is enough to boost bone strength and density in growing children.
Regular physical activity is also directly responsible for an increase in bone mass in children. Researchers have found that regular exercise before puberty has residual benefits for bone mass that last well into adulthood. This means that older adults who were physically active during their prepubertal years actually have a lower chance of getting fractures due to greater bone mass. This goes to show that it is never too early for children to start exercising regularly.
Teach your child to incorporate exercise into their daily routine and they will be able to reap the benefits for years to come.