Physical activity completed when young has residual bone benefits at 94 years of age: a within-subject controlled case study Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Physical activity is recommended for skeletal health because bones adapt to mechanical loading. The young skeleton shows greatest plasticity to physical activity-related mechanical loads, but bones are most at risk of failure later in life. The discrepancy raises the question of whether the skeletal benefits of physical activity completed when young persist with aging. Here we present a unique case wherein the cortical bone benefit of physical activity completed over five decades earlier could be established within an individual aged in their tenth decade of life. Specifically, we compared bone properties at the midshaft humerus between the throwing and nonthrowing arms of a 94-year-old former Major League Baseball player who ceased throwing 55 years earlier. By performing analyses within-subject, the long-term skeletal benefit of physical activity completed when young could be assessed independent of inherited and systemic traits. Also, as the subject threw left-handed during his throwing career, but was right-hand dominant in all other activities throughout life, any lasting skeletal benefits in favor of the throwing arm could not be attributable to simple arm dominance. Analyses indicated that any cortical bone mass, area and thickness benefits of throwing-related physical activity completed when young were lost with aging, possibly due to accelerated intracortical remodeling. In contrast, the subject's throwing (nondominant) arm had greater total cross-sectional area and estimated strength (polar moment of inertia) than in his dominant arm, despite muscle indices favoring the latter. These data indicate that physical activity completed when young can have lasting benefits on bone size and strength, independent of the maintenance of bone mass benefits.

publication date

  • 2014