Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Go Play: Despite the Risk!

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Go Play: Despite the Risk!

Article excerpt

"I am a big believer in physical activity for wellness in general, and certainly for strength," says Megan Henry, Director of Athletics at Columbus School for Girls in Bexley, Ohio. "Those years before puberty are critical times for kids to build bone mass--to develop and grow."

The early years of your kid's life are crucial for behavior, mental health, and overall development; the brain grows more before age five than it will at any other age. When your kid reaches the end of their teen years, approximately 90% of their adult bone mass has been formed. A kid's bone mass density can be aided most during their pre-puberty years. Research has shown that bone gains the most minerals for growth and density from age 11 to 14. This gain in bone mass density can be influenced by high-impact physical activity. A new study released in May by Jonathan A. Mitchell and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia reported that bone mass density from high-impact physical activity can be found in children with genetic risks for bone weakness.

Osteoporosis, a disease that causes bones to become weaker, often results in bone fractures. Bone fractures are experienced at by 50% of women and 30% of men. And osteoporosis can result from a variety of conditions and treatments. Bone density could become a primary concern for you and your children as they grow into adulthood. Yet this new study now shows that your kid can take action against a genetic predisposition for bone fragility.

"Times have changed," Megan Henry says.

When Megan was a student athlete, she notes, an athlete who tore their ACL would spend six months resting. However, today, "if you blow an ACL, it's surgery. And the next day, rehab starts, and we start building back up and growing."

In schools, it's now understood that growth and recovery can be coupled with physical activity.

Sure, Calcium and Vitamin D make for strong bones. But so does high-impact physical activity. High-impact physical activity can include any sports or games with actions like sprinting, turning, or jumping. Your kid, sprinting in a game of soccer or rounding the bases in kickball and baseball, is using their bones and muscles against the pull of gravity. Bones, which are living tissue, build new material during weight-bearing or high-impact physical activities, resulting in increased bone mass density. When kids especially those with genetic risk of bone weakness--grow stronger bones in early childhood, they ensure higher bone density as they enter their adult years. This can help counteract the bone density loss that may take place due to genetic bone fragility. Improving the starting point of bone density can improve future adult bone density.

"This study just shows," Megan says, "that the mindset and change in physical activity and involvement can certainly outweigh the risk of injury"

You might think that a child with the potential for bone fragility should take a time-out when it's time to hit the baseball diamond or soccer field. But for some, it's actually beneficial to participate in these types of activities to spur the growth of bone mass density during the childhood years in which growth is most rapid.

Many studies, noting the benefits of high-impact physical activity, suggest that children exercise for a minimum of 60 minutes each day. …

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