So-called "weight-bearing" exercise,
which includes high-impact sports like soccer, may
be best when it comes to helping girls build strong
bones, researchers say.
"Beyond the basic premise
that kids need exercise, our study suggests that
weight-bearing exercise with skeletal impact needs
to be promoted during youth to preserve future bone
health," researcher James W. Bellew of Louisiana
State University in Shreveport said in a prepared
The study compared the bone mineral density (BMD)
of three groups of adolescent female athletes: 29
swimmers, 16 soccer players, and 19 weightlifters.
BMD is a standard measurement of bone strength.
The soccer players had the highest BMD levels,
followed by weightlifters and swimmers. Not only
is soccer a weight-bearing sport, it also places
repetitive impact on the skeleton, which further
promotes bone development, Bellew noted.
The average BMD values among the soccer players
were higher than normal values for adult women --
even though the girls in the study weren't fully
mature. The weightlifters' BMD values were similar
to those of adult women, while the swimmers' BMD
values were below adult norms.
"Like other sports that involve a lot of running
and jumping, soccer is definitely a good sport to
consider for building bone strength. Lacrosse and
field hockey are other good examples of sports that
place a continuous load on the skeleton," Bellew
"Swimmers can add other forms of exercise
that will promote bone development -- for example,
they can perform weight training in weight-bearing
positions or add running as a cross training activity,"
The study appears in the journal Pediatric Physical