April 23, 2014 2:45 pm

Gymnastics in schools for stronger bones: U of S researcher

A couple hours of gymnastics a week is enough to strengthen bones, according to a University of Saskatchewan researcher.

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SASKATOON – A University of Saskatchewan (U of S) researcher says a little gymnastics here and there for children can go a long way to fighting osteoporosis.

For her doctoral work, U of S college of kinesiology assistant professor Marta Erlandson set off working to find out if low-level gymnastics could be beneficial.

As a former gymnast, she knows competitive gymnastics is a high-impact physical activity that isn’t practical for all, but it also strengthens bones.

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Erlandson’ research focused on recreational gymnasts, between the ages of four to six, and analyzed their bone mass annually for four years.

“The children were involved with anything from one to four hours per week of gymnastics participation and that increased their bone parameters,” said Erlandson.

“Children had better bone parameters even after an hour or so a week of participation.”

She says the key in gymnastics is “impact load” exercises that strengthen the upper body. Running and walking can achieve these results with the lower body.

Adequate exercise, like gymnastics, is critical to building strong bones and this must be done during childhood and adolescence which could help fight osteoporosis.

“You have your peak bone mineral accrual, which is the greatest amount of bone you’re ever going to have, somewhere between 20 and 30 years of age. After that, you can’t actually increase the bone. You can only slow the rate of loss,” said Erlandson.

Erlandson says a little gymnastics could easily be added to the curriculum at schools.

“Even though they will lose as they age, they’re never going to reach a fracture threshold. That’s what we hope to do with these childhood interventions.”

According to a 2013 report from Active Healthy Kids Canada, only five per cent of Canadian children get enough physical activity.

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