Mechanical Force, Childhood, and Osteoporosis

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To put osteoporosis into perspective, the process that creates bone mass density must be understood

When mechanical force is applied to bone mass, in a way where, bending, torsion or stretching occurs, a cellular response can take place to cause an adaptation in the density of bone mass. These loads must be high enough for the cells (osteoblasts) to be irritated, therefore having a need to adapt by gathering minerals and fortifying the density of the bone. The weight of bone per volume (usually reflected in grams/cm squared) is the measure of bone mass density.

Many studies as well as the US Surgeon General’s report on bone density (2004) state that loading, at the level of impact, can create an adaptation in bone mass to build the intended density. Impact training/exercise is often not comfortable for adults, however is embraced by children in their regular behavior. When children run, especially toddler aged children, they heel-strike. This means the heel of the foot is the first thing to contact the ground with each stride. With a heel-strike loading is absorbed through the axis of each bone from the heel to the base of the skull. As these children play and run with regular heel-strikes, as well as absorbing impact in the upper extremities that is also associated with childhood play, density of bone mass is stimulated.

The level of bone mass developed in youth can echo through an individual’s life increasing the level of health they enjoy. Bone tissue is not just the physical supporting structure of the body. Bone also participates in metabolic functions, stores 99% of the body’s calcium, which is needed for regular nervous system function, and stores 85% of the body’s phosphorous that is needed in the function of almost all organs. The body’s level of healthy blood calcium is adjusted by the central nervous system by releasing hormones that control calcium, and when required, the central nervous system will force the shedding of calcium from bone mass to facilitate requirements elsewhere.

Children, as well as young adults who can tolerate the risk of high impact activity should be encouraged to engage in such activities. Storage of more of the body’s key nutrients can aid in an enhanced level of health later into life.


Surgeon General (2004). Bone health and osteoporosis: A report of the Surgeon General.  Rockville, MD. : U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Office of the Surgeon General; Washington, D.C.: U.S. G.P.O., 2004. p.436, 223.

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