This 2-year prospective controlled exercise intervention trial in 99 girls at Tanner stage 1, evaluating a school curriculum–based training program on a population-based level, showed that the annual gain in BMC, aBMD, and bone size was greater in the intervention group than in the controls.
Introduction: Most exercise intervention studies in children, evaluating the accrual of BMD, include volunteers and use specifically designed osteogenic exercise programs. The aim of this study was to evaluate a 2-year general school-based exercise intervention program in a population-based cohort of girls at Tanner stage 1.
Materials and Methods: Forty-nine girls 7–9 years of age in grades 1 and 2 in one school were included in a school curriculum–based exercise intervention program of general physical activity for 40 minutes per school day (200 minutes/week). Fifty healthy age-matched girls in three neighboring schools, assigned to the general Swedish school curriculum of physical activity (60 minutes/week), served as controls. All girls were premenarchal, remaining in Tanner stage 1 during the study. BMC (g) and areal BMD (aBMD; g/cm2) were measured with DXA of the total body (TB), the lumbar spine (L2–L4 vertebrae), the third lumbar vertebra (L3), the femoral neck (FN), and the leg. Volumetric BMD (vBMD; g/cm3) and bone size were calculated at L3 and FN. Total lean body mass and total fat mass were estimated from the total body scan. Height and weight were also registered. Baseline measurements were performed before the intervention was initiated. Follow-up was done after 2 years.
Results: No differences between the groups were found at baseline in age, anthropometrics, or bone parameters. The annual gain in BMC was greater in the intervention group than in the controls: L2–L4, mean 3.8 percentage points (p = 0.007); L3 vertebra, mean 7.2 percentage points (p < 0.001); legs, mean 3.0 percentage points (p = 0.07). The intervention group had a greater annual gain in aBMD: total body, mean 0.6 percentage points (p = 0.006), L2–L4, mean 1.2 percentage points (p = 0.02), L3 vertebra, mean 1.6 percentage points (p = 0.006); legs, mean 1.2 percentage points (p = 0.007). There was also a greater mean annual gain in bone size in the L3 vertebra (mean 1.8 percentage points; p < 0.001) and in the FN (mean 0.3 percentage points; p = 0.02).
Conclusions: A general school-based exercise program for 2 years for 7- to 9-year-old girls (baseline) enhances the accrual of BMC and BMD and increases bone size.