The symptoms of osteoporosis usually don’t start until later in life, but the issue has often been settled by the quality of bones girls build before they ever leave home.
Between the ages of 12 and 16 girls, on average, add more density to their bones than the amount they will lose during the last 4 decades of their lives. About 40 percent of the body’s lifetime supply of bone mineral is added during these few years. Technology for easy bone density measurements has made it possible to follow a group of young women from when they were 12 years old to age 22 with a series of fifteen bone density measurements, to see how their bones developed over time. In particular, researchers analyzed whether certain things in the girls control – calcium intake, oral contraceptive use, and exercise – would make a significant impact on the density and strength of their bones.
The results of the study were published in the June 2004 Journal of Pediatrics. As long as girls were getting at least a couple of servings of calcium per day, the total amount didn’t make much difference. Nor did the presence or absence of oral contraceptives. But the amount of active exercise, especially between the ages of 12 and 16, made a dramatic impact on the girls’ bones that should last for the rest of their lives. Every bit of physical activity seemed to help. The more voluntary sports practices and events in which the girls participated, the higher their bone densities. Doing what it takes to encourage fun, physical activity is a powerful gift to your daughter at any age, and especially between 12 and 16.