Bone fragility and decreased functional performance are risk factors for osteoporotic fractures. The influence of long-term recreational gymnastics on the maintenance of bone rigidity and physical performance was evaluated.Methods
One hundred and seven gymnasts and 110 referents (93% of the original sample) participated in this 6-year prospective study. Analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was used to estimate the between-group differences and changes by time, and regression analyses to find predictors for changes.Results
In both groups agility and leg extensor power decreased by over 3% and 10%, respectively, but the original between-group differences, favoring the gymnasts, persisted. Proximal femur bone mineral content (BMC) decreased approximately 0.5% per year in both groups, and femoral neck section modulus decreased. Trabecular density of the distal tibia declined only marginally, and cortical area of the tibial midshaft remained unchanged, while cortical density decreased about 2% in both groups. After adjustment by age, height, weight, change in weight, and follow-up time, antiresorptive medication and high calcium intake accounted most for the maintenance of bone rigidity.Conclusions
In spite of similar rates of decline in bone characteristics and physical performance, the recreational gymnasts' overall physical condition was comparable to the level that their less active referents had shown approximately 5 years earlier.