Moderate physical activity is associated with higher bone mineral density in postmenopausal women

James M. Hagberg, Joseph M. Zmuda, Steve D. McCole, Kathleen S. Rodgers, Robert E. Ferrell, Kenneth R. Wilund, Geoffrey E. Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVES: To determine the associations between different levels of habitual physical activity, hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and bone mineral density (BMD) in postmenopausal women. DESIGN: Cross-sectional. SETTING: Academic medical center, PARTICIPANTS: Twenty sedentary women, 20 active non-athletic women, and 23 endurance-trained athletes, all of whom were postmenopausal, with half of each group on and half not on HRT. MEASUREMENTS: BMD and body composition determined by dual energy x-ray absorptiometry, maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max), dietary history by questionnaire, and vitamin D receptor (VDR) genotyping on deoxyribonucleic acid. RESULTS: Body weight was higher in the active nonathletic than in the sedentary and athletic women. Body fat was lower and VO2max higher in the athletic women than in the sedentary and the active nonathletic women. Physical activity level was significantly associated with BMD in three of the five measurements taken (L1-L4 lumbar spine, trochanter, total body; all P < .05). These differences were also generally significant after adjusting for body weight. The association between physical activity status and BMD at the neck of the femur and Ward's triangle bordered on significance (P = .07-.09). At most sites, the active non-athletic women had higher BMD than did the sedentary and athletic women. HRT was significantly associated only with total body BMD (P < .05). The groups were similar in terms of dietary habits (protein, calcium, sodium, phosphorus intake); VDR genotypes; and family, smoking, and nutritional histories. CONCLUSION: Given the similarity of the groups with respect to other factors that affect BMD, it appears that prolonged low-to-moderate-intensity physical activity, but not the same number of years of higher-intensity training for competitive events, was independently associated with higher BMD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1411-1417
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Diet
  • Endurance athletes
  • Genetic markers
  • Hormone replacement therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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