[Physical exercise and the skeleton].Arch Physiol Biochem. 1995 Dec; 103(6):681-98.AP
The skeleton provides more than only a framework for the body. Bone is a calcified conjunctive tissue sensitive to various mechanical stimuli, mainly to those resulting from gravity and muscular contractions. Numerous animal and human studies demonstrate the importance of weight-bearing physical activity as well as mechanical loading for maintaining skeletal integrity. Lack of weight-bearing activity is dangerous for the skeleton: a decrease in bone mineral density (BMD) has been demonstrated in animals and humans under conditions of weightlessness or immobilization. Other studies have also reported a lower vertebral BMD among young amenorrheic athletes than among athletes with regular cycles and/or non athletes. The main factor responsible for this lower BMD in the amenorrheic athletes is the persistent low level of endogenous estrogen observed among these women. However this does not represent a premature and irreversible loss of bone mass since the resumption of menses following a decrease in training is the primary factor for a significant increase in vertebral BMD in these formerly amenorrheic athletes. A weight-bearing exercise is likely to be more beneficial at weight-bearing than at non weight-bearing sites, and hypogonadism resulting from very intensive training and exercise is more detrimental to trabecular than cortical bone. Bone deficit at non weight-bearing sites may be attenuated by maintenance of body weight. Nevertheless the etiology of "stress fractures" among athletes remains poorly understood, and the exact relationship between soft tissue mass and BMD is not clear. Osteoporosis, the most common bone disorder in France, is a pathological condition associated with increased loss of bone mass, resulting in a greater risk of fracture. Although symptoms of osteoporosis do not generally occur until after menopause, recent evidence suggests that bone loss starts much earlier in life. Therefore osteoporosis might be prevented by increasing peak bone mass and/or by slowering bone loss after menopause. Exercise such as resistance training or weight-bearing activities like running or walking have an osteogenic effect on increasing BMD in young people, and the decrease in BMD is slower in exercised than in non-exercised post-menopausal women. Nevertheless the influence of the length and of the intensity of such physical activities remain to be determined.