(CLEVELAND CLINIC) – Parents know that getting their kids involved in sports is a great way to promote healthy habits and prevent childhood obesity.
But a recent study shows the benefit of playing sports as a child goes beyond keeping the pounds off.
The study looked at 984 children – following them from age 5-17.
“They did find that not only did the enrollment of young kids and adolescents in sports really positively impact their bone strength, but it showed the people who stayed in sports, had even stronger bones,” said Abby Abelson, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic who did not take part in the study.
Researchers found that children who were consistently involved in sports throughout childhood had better levels of bone mass at age 20 than their peers who either did not participate in any sports, or those who started a sport and then later dropped out.
Dr. Abelson said most people don’t think about bone health when they are young – but they should.
She said we build most of our bone when we are young and we reach our peak bone mass in our later twenties.
Dr. Abelson said osteoporosis in the U.S. has become an epidemic, and things that can happen later in life, such as hip fractures and other broken bones, can really impact a person’s mobility and quality of life.
By participating in sports and improving bone strength while children are still young, she said the hope is that when these children become older adults, they will have less risk for fracture.
Dr. Abelson pointed out that kids don’t have to be champion athletes. The study showed that any participation in sports – regardless of the sport or the child’s ability level- was found to show a bone benefit.
“What people do in childhood and adolescence, and early adulthood, is really building a bone bank, so we have to pay particular attention to the things that we do when we’re young, so that we can be sure we have the maximum bone strength before we start losing bone,” said Dr. Abelson.
Complete results of the study can be found in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.