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19 July 2017

Physically inactive teens have weaker skeletons

A new study found that after teens reach their full height, they still grow a further 10% bone mass.

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When teens reach their full height, they stop developing completely, right? Apparently not. The late teens are a key time for bone growth, even after young people reach their full height.

A new study included more than 2 000 youngsters who had annual bone and growth measurements for up to seven years as they moved into their late teens and early adulthood. The findings highlight the importance of a healthy diet and physical activity during the late teen years, according to authors of the study published recently in JAMA Pediatrics.

High fracture rates

''We often think of a child's growth largely with respect to height, but overall bone development is also important,'' said lead author Dr Shana McCormack, a paediatric researcher at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

''This study shows that roughly 10% of bone mass continues to accumulate after a teenager reaches his or her adult height,'' McCormack said in a hospital news release.

The study also found that bone growth develops at different rates in different parts of the skeleton, that it peaks earlier in black Americans than in other racial groups, and that height growth far outpaces bone growth before adolescence.

The latter finding could help explain why children and teens have high fracture rates. Between 30 and 50% will have at least one broken bone before adulthood.

A healthy lifestyle important for teens

The late teen years offer health care providers a chance to set young patients on a path to a healthy life, the researchers said. ''Late adolescence is when some teenagers adopt risky behaviours, such as smoking and alcohol use, worse dietary choices and decreased physical activity, all of which can impair bone development,'' McCormack said. ''This period is a time for parents and caregivers to encourage healthier behaviours, such as better diets and more physical activity."

Health24 also previously mentioned that physically inactive teens have weaker skeletons than their fitter peers. South African guidelines suggest that teenagers get a total of at least 60 minutes of moderate to heavy exercise each day, but research suggests that fewer than half do.

Here are some ways of ensuring proper bone growth in teens:

  • Encourage a physical activity of their choice. Encourage something else like dancing or social running if your teen is not into the team sports at school.
  • Limit screen time to an hour a day.
  • Encourage a healthy, balanced diet with enough calcium.
  • Incorporate physical activity such as walks on the beach or hiking with the family over weekends.

Read more:

20 reasons to get moving

Exercise boosts teen health

Rediscover dairy for bone health

 
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