July 23, 2014 3:21 pm
Updated: July 23, 2014 4:47 pm

What your kids need to do to avoid bone problems later in life


Watch above: keeping keeps active for healthy bones

SASKATOON – For years we’ve been hearing warnings to get children more active. Studies have shown rising rates of diabetes and obesity in youth because they are not physically active enough.

Now a study at the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Kinesiology is highlighting another reason – healthy bones.

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“The only time you can actually increase the amount of bone you have growing in your body is during the early years,” said Marta Erlandson, an assistant professor at the college.

“So it’s really important that during childhood and adolescence we have kids being physically active in order to optimize the development of their bones during the growing years,” she told Global Saskatoon’s Morning News.

Erlandson said if that doesn’t happen – and young people head into adulthood with weaker bones, it can lead to problems later in life, like osteoporosis.

She said for years researchers have known that elite gymnasts have very strong bones, because their sport “loads” all areas of their bodies.

They looked at a much less demanding version of that – recreational gymnastics – and found that even 45 minutes to two hours a week of recreational gym can make a significant difference in having healthy bones.

“We found that even this low level of participation resulted in increases in bone density, especially at the wrist,” she said. “This is really important because the wrist is the most common site of fracture in childhood and adolescence and its also a common site of fracture in older adults, especially post-menopausal women.”

She said while many sports, like hockey or soccer, load the lower part of the body, there are not that many activities that give the upper body a significant workout.

And if parents don’t have time or money to get their child involved in gymnastics, she said, that’s no barrier to the kind of activities that will keep their bones strong.

“Recreational gymnastics skills isn’t necessarily gymnastics, you don’t need a gym to do it,” said Erlandson.

“Kids just need to get outside, they need to play, so they need to be on monkey bars, and swinging, and they need to be jumping on and off of things. They need to get out and do animal walks and bear walks – things like that.”

She said they are looking at school-based intervention strategies that can incorporate gymnastic-type workouts into a host of activities.

“Just take your kids out to the park,” she said. “Let them run around, make sure they are running around not just on their feet, but kind of all of their limbs as well.”

She said the most recent surveys have found levels of physical activity declining in children in Saskatchewan, with less than 15 per cent getting the recommended 60 minutes of vigorous activity per day, which means it’s important to find ways to get children active – for a variety of reasons, including healthy bones.

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