TUESDAY, May 11, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- Rhythmic gymnastics, an elite sport in which competitors incorporate hoops, ribbons and such into their routine, improves girls' bone health, new research shows.
"Previous studies of adolescents have found an association between weight-bearing exercise and increased bone density and bone strength," lead author Dr. Symeon Tournis, of the University of Athens in Greece, said in a news release from The Endocrine Society.
"Our findings show that training in rhythmic gymnastics significantly improves bone health in adolescent girls. Given that osteoporosis traits start in childhood, it is possible to speculate that if girls maintain their gymnastic training beyond adolescence, even if their training is less intensive, they may have a reduced risk of bone fracture later in life," Tournis added.
The study included 26 girls, aged 9 to 13, who were elite rhythmic gymnasts who had trained for at least two years, and 23 girls in the same age group who had only participated in physical education-related activity.
The researchers found that the rhythmic gymnasts had increased cortical thickness (outer shell of the bone) and bone strength compared to the other girls.
The findings will be published in the June issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
"The long-term significance of the skeletal benefits gained by intensive exercise remains uncertain," Tournis said. "Some studies have shown a decline in bone mineral density after the cessation of training while a recent study has found increases in bone mineral content and cortical thickness in female gymnasts six years after retirement."
The U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases has more about exercise and bone health.