Too much computer time for boys can lead to poor bone health

Boys who lead sedentary lifestyles and spend a lot of their spare time playing computer games tend to have weaker bones, compared to those who are more active, according to a new study.
The research by the Arctic University of Norway looked at data from 463 girls and 484 boys aged 15-18 in the Tromso region of Norway. It found higher screen time for boys was linked with low bone mineral density. These findings held true even when the researchers accounted for age, sexual maturation, BMI, leisure-time physical activity, smoking, alcohol and the consumption of fizzy drinks.
The lead author of the study, Dr Anne Winther, said: "Bone mineral density is a strong predictor of future fracture risk. The findings for boys clearly show that sedentary lifestyle during adolescence can have an impact on bone mineral density and thus compromise the acquisition of peak bone mass." She added: "This can have a negative impact in terms of osteoporosis and fracture risk later in life."
During the study, researchers found boys spent more time in front of computers than girls. The skeleton grows continually from birth to the end of the teenage years, reaching maximum strength and size in early adulthood. Along with nutritional factors, physical activity can greatly affect this process. There is consequently growing concern regarding the possible adverse effects of sedentary lifestyles in youth on bone health and obesity.
Sebastien Chastin, researcher at the Glasgow University School of Health and Life Sciences, said: "First, it is well known that being active and engaging in exercise before the age of peak bone mineral density leads to higher peak bone mineral density, therefore, it is not surprising that boys who are less active might tend to have lower peak bone mineral density. What is interesting is the new phenomena of children spending extended periods of time in front of screens. The question to ask here is whether the time spent in front of computers displaces the time that boys would have been active climbing trees and running around with friends or whether there is a specific and independent effect of prolonged periods of sitting. The key message for boys should be that it is ok to spend time in front of the computer but to break up some of this time with active playing and strengthening activities, even if they are for a brief moment."

Taken from Osteoporosis News article, Summer 2014 issue



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