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Kim, Jung, Seo, Park, and Song: Effects of bone-specific physical activity on body composition, bone mineral density, and health-related physical fitness in middle-aged women

Abstract

[Purpose]

The study aimed to determine the effects of bone-specific physical activity on body composition, bone mineral density (BMD), and health-related physical fitness in middle-aged women.

[Methods]

One hundred eighty-six middle-aged women aged 31-49 years participated in this study. The subjects were divided into tertile groups according to the level of physical activity (low-score group, n=62; middle-score group, n=62; high-score group, n=62). Bone-specific physical activity participation was assessed using the bone-specific physical activity questionnaire. Body composition and BMD were measured using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Health-related physical fitness test included isometric muscle strength (grip strength), muscular endurance (sit-ups), flexibility (sit and reach), and cardiorespiratory fitness (maximal oxygen uptake [VO2max]).

[Results]

The high-score group had a significantly higher fat-free mass (p=.045, partial eta-squared value [ηp2]=.033) than the middle- and low-score groups, whereas the high-score group had significantly lower percent body fat (p=.005, ηp2=.056) than the other two groups. Whole-body BMD (p=.034, ηp2=.036) and lumbar BMD (p=.003, ηp2=.060) were significantly higher in the high-score group than in the low-score group. The high-score group performed significantly better for grip strength (p=.0001, ηp2=.101), sit-ups (p=.0001, ηp2=.108), and VO2max (p=.0001, ηp2=.092) than the other two groups.

[Conclusion]

The present study suggests that bone-specific physical activity could be useful in improving body composition, BMD, and health-related physical fitness in middle-aged women, significantly enhancing their BMD and health conditions.

INTRODUCTION

The Lancet Physical Activity Series Working Group reported that approximately 31% of adults worldwide have insufficient physical activity (PA), resulting in several chronic diseases, such as stroke, osteoporosis, diabetes, and hypertension, which are the major risk factors for mortality1,2. Moreover, insufficient PA has a negative impact on cardiovascular diseases, including coronary artery disease and stroke3-5. Lozano et al.6 reported that cardiovascular deaths accounted for 29.6% of all-cause mortality, which was two times higher than that caused by cancer. Individuals who participate in regular physical activities have a lower risk of being diagnosed with cardiovascular diseases than individuals who are engaged in a sedentary lifestyle7,8. It was also revealed that premature mortality could be reduced to approximately 20% when individuals participate in PA regularly9. Unfortunately, 85% of adults (men and women) do not regularly participate in moderate-to-vigorous PA greater than 150 min per week, and the incidence of being diagnosed with a disease, as a result of insufficient PA, did not decrease over the last 10 years10-12. Furthermore, the incidence of metabolic diseases, such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes, is increasing in adults due to insufficient PA13,14. Therefore, middle-aged women need to participate in regular PA because it can not only reduce the risk of disease but also improve health and manage PA levels according to their life cycle.
Body composition consistently changes throughout life, which is caused by various factors such as aging, dietary intake, and PA. Generally, the amount of fat increases but muscle mass and bone mineral density (BMD) decrease with aging15,16. Particularly, muscle mass gradually decreases from the late 20s with a ratio of 0.4-0.8 kg per decade17. Moreover, premenopausal women’s BMD is associated with weight, while it is less associated with fat and more dependent on fat-free mass (FFM)18. For women, after reaching 90% of the peak bone mass at age 18, BMD begins to decrease at a relatively slow rate and rapidly decreases at a rate of 0.5%-1% per year after menopause19-21. Therefore, increasing the peak bone mass and maintaining BMD during adulthood are significantly important. Middle-aged women participate in regular physical activities to maintain high BMDs and minimize bone loss, reducing the risk of fractures and osteoporosis that can occur after menopause.
PA and physical fitness are important factors in promoting health status13. According to the previous studies22-24, health-related physical health can be affected not only by lifestyle and genetic factors but also by participation in regular PA. Moreover, aging and insufficient PA will lead to a decrease in health-related physical fitness and daily functional impairment25,26. The maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max), which is an index of cardiovascular endurance in the health-related physical fitness, is reduced by approximately 3%-6% with aging27. High levels of cardiopulmonary endurance and muscle mass maintained from adulthood can reduce the incidence of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes28,29. Additionally, physical fitness, which is achieved through regular PA, also exhibits a positive impact on life expectancy by reducing mortality from cardiovascular diseases30. Thus, health-related physical fitness is an indirect health indicator of the body, and it is significantly necessary to manage it continuously by participating in regular PA.
The PA research tools and methods used in the previous studies did not examine the type of PA that may impact bone health. However, the bone-specific physical activity questionnaire (BPAQ), which considers the type of PA that could directly impact bone health, has recently been developed and used in some previous studies31-35. Therefore, our study aimed to determine the effects of bone-specific PA on body composition, BMD, and health-related physical fitness in middle-aged women.

METHODS

Participants

A total of 205 middle-aged women aged 31-49 years were randomly selected. Based on their past medical history, these women had no medical problems. However, 19 participants were excluded due to personal reasons. Overall, this study included 186 middle-aged women. According to the PA level estimated using the BPAQ, participants were divided into tertile groups (low-score group, n=62; middle-score group, n=62; high-score group, n=62)36. The characteristics of the participants are shown in Table 1.
Table 1.

Physical characteristics and bone-specific physical activity questionnaire scores by physical activity level

Low-score group
(n=62)
Middle-score group
(n=62)
High-score group
(n=62)
F-value Prob > F
Age (yrs) 40.4±4.06a 41.1±4.13a 39.8±3.94a 1.525 .220
Body height (cm) 161.1±4.85a 160.7±5.24a 162.7±5.08a 2.802 .063
Body weight (kg) 58.8±8.59a 58.9±9.88a 59.0±9.02a .014 .986
BMI (kg/m2) 22.6±3.14a 22.8±3.61a 22.3±3.10a .429 .652
Current BPAQ score 0.3±0.46a 1.9±3.12a 5.8±13.93b 7.368 .001
Past BPAQ score 1.7±0.79a 8.7±5.39b 37.0±20.31c 146.784 .0001
Total BPAQ score 1.0±0.44a 5.3±2.49b 21.4±10.66c 179.732 .0001

Note. Values are expressed as mean ± standard deviation.

Different lowercase letters indicate significant differences among the groups

BMI, body mass index; BPAQ, bone-specific physical activity questionnaire

Study design

The participants from Gyeonggi-do Province were recruited from January to February 2018, and they were randomly sampled through posters and flyers. Before the study, the objectives, procedures, advantages, and potential disadvantages of this study were explained to all participants. This study was approved by the Institutional Review Board of Kyung Hee University (KHSIRB-17-048). Each participant provided written informed consent. On the testing day, body composition (FFM, fat mass [FM], and percent body fat), BMD (whole-body, lumbar, femur, and forearm region), health-related physical fitness (grip strength [GS], sit-ups [SU], sit and reach [SAR], and VO2max), and BPAQ (current BPAQ [cBPAQ], past BPAQ [pBPAQ], and total BPAQ [tBPAQ]) were measured between 9:00 and 11:00 AM.

Measurements

Body composition and bone mineral density
The body height and weight were measured, and body mass index was calculated by dividing the body weight (kg) by the square of body height (m2). Body composition and BMD were measured using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, with a Hologic QDR 4500W bone densitometer (Hologic, Marlborough, USA). Body compositions, including FM, percent body fat, and FFM, were analyzed. All the participants were scanned at four different sites of the BMD (e.g., whole-body, lumbar, femur, and forearm region).
Health-related physical fitness
Health-related physical fitness test included isometric muscle strength (GS), muscular endurance (SU), flexibility (SAR), and cardiorespiratory fitness (VO2max). The graded exercise stress test (GXT) using the Bruce protocol was performed to measure the VO2max. Oxygen uptake was measured using a Quark b2 (COSMED, Rome, Italy). All participants started walking at 1.7 mph with a 10% gradient. The speed was increased to 0.8-0.9 mph at 3-min intervals, and the incline was increased by 2% with each stage. The GXT was performed on a treadmill (Series 2000, Marquette Electronics, Wisconsin, USA). Maximal heart rate (HRmax) was measured using a heart rate monitor (Polar RS400, Polar Electro Oy, Kempele, Finland). VO2max was defined as follows. The participants should meet three out of the following four criteria: (1) oxygen uptake alteration should not exceed 2.1 ml/kg/min (VO2 plateau), (2) heart rate should not increase regardless if the stage was increased, (3) the ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) should be >17 (RPE of 6-20), and (4) RER should be over 1.137.
Bone-specific physical activity questionnaire
The BPAQ assessment instrument aims to evaluate the PA level that exerts a mechanical load on the bone31. Participants were asked to complete the two independent sections of the BPAQ, that is, the pBPAQ (previous PA level from birth to 12 months) and the cBPAQ (previous 12-month period PA level). The online Microsoft Visual Basic program was used to generate the pBPAQ, cBPAQ, and tBPAQ scores.

Statistical analysis

The power test was performed using G*Power 3.1.9.2 (Franz Faul, University of Kiel, Kiel, Germany) with an effect size of 0.25, a significance level of 0.05 (α=0.05), and a power of 0.8 for all statistical tests. G*Power showed that 159 participants had sufficient power for this study.
Statistical analyses were performed using the Statistical Analysis System (SAS) software version 9.4 (SAS Institute, Cary, NC, USA). The mean, standard deviation, and 95% confidence interval were calculated. One-way analysis of variance was used to determine the differences among the three groups on the dependent variables and was followed by Duncan’s post-hoc multiple range test. The effect size was computed as partial eta-squared values (ηp2; small, ≥.01; medium, ≥.06; large, ≥.14). The statistical significance level was set at 0.05.

RESULTS

Body composition

Table 2 indicates the difference of body composition in middle-aged women by bone-specific PA level. There were no significant differences in FM (F=1.566, p=.212, ηp2 =.017) among the three groups. However, significant differences were observed on FFM (F=3.153, p=.045, ηp2=.033) and percent body fat (F=5.427, p=.005, ηp2=.056) among the three groups. The high-score group (38.8±4.61 kg) had significantly higher FFM than the middle- (36.9±4.92 kg) and low-score groups (37.0±4.07 kg). On the contrary, the high-score group (28.9±6.39%) had significantly lower percent body fat than the other two groups (middle-score group, 32.0±5.89%; low-score group, 31.9±5.43%).
Table 2.

Comparison of body composition among the three groups

Low-score group
(95% CI)
Middle-score group
(95% CI)
High-score group
(95% CI)
F-value Prob > F ηp2
Fat mass (kg) 18.8±5.56a
(17.3-20.2)
18.8±6.02a
(17.4-20.4)
17.2±5.94a
(15.8-18.8)
1.566 .212 .017
Fat-free mass (kg) 37.0±4.07a
(36.0-38.2)
36.9±4.92a
(35.8-38.2)
38.8±4.61b
(37.6-39.9)
3.153 .045 .033
Percent body fat (%) 31.9±5.43a
(30.5-33.3)
32.0±5.89a
(30.6-33.4)
28.9±6.39b
(27.4-30.7)
5.427 .005 .056

Note. Values are expressed as mean ± standard deviation.

Different lowercase letters indicate significant differences among the groups

95% CI, 95% confidence interval

Bone mineral density

Table 3 shows the significant differences in whole-body BMD (F=3.446, p=.034, ηp2=.036) and lumbar BMD (F=5.881, p=.003, ηp2=.060) among the three groups. However, significant differences were not observed for femur BMD (F=1.609, p=.203, ηp2=.017) and forearm BMD (F=.053, p=.949, ηp2=.001) among the three groups. The high-score group (1.148±0.087 g/cm2) had significantly higher whole-body BMD than the low-score group (1.113±0.070 g/cm2). Moreover, the high-score group (1.057±0.114 g/cm2) had significantly higher lumbar BMD than both the middle- (1.004±0.106 g/cm2) and low-score groups (0.993±0.109 g/cm2).
Table 3.

Comparison of bone mineral density among the three groups

Low-score group
(95% CI)
Middle-score group
(95% CI)
High-score group
(95% CI)
F-value Prob > F ηp2
Whole-body BMD (g/cm2) 1.113±0.070a
(1.096-1.132)
1.121±0.072ab
(1.101-1.139)
1.148±0.087b
(1.128-1.170)
3.446 .034 .036
Femur BMD (g/cm2) 0.864±0.104a
(0.840-0.890)
0.860±0.100a
(0.835-0.885)
0.890±0.098a
(0.867-0.915)
1.609 .203 .017
Lumbar BMD (g/cm2) 0.993±0.109a
(0.965-1.022)
1.004±0.106a
(0.978-1.033)
1.057±0.114b
(1.030-1.086)
5.881 .003 .060
Forearm BMD (g/cm2) 0.562±0.036a
(0.553-0.571)
0.561±0.032a
(0.553-0.569)
0.563±0.034a
(0.554-0.572)
.053 .949 .001

Note. Values are expressed as mean ± standard deviation.

Different lowercase letters indicate significant differences among the groups

95% CI, 95% confidence interval; BMD, bone mineral density

Health-related physical fitness

Table 4 indicates the insignificant differences in SAR (F=1.960, p=.114, ηp2=.021) and HRmax (F=.718, p=.489, ηp2=.008) among the three groups. However, significant differences were observed for GS (F=10.334, p=.0001, ηp2=.101), SU (F=11.059, p=.0001, ηp2=.108), and VO2max (F=9.278, p=.0001, ηp2=.092) among the three groups. The high-score group had significantly higher GS (29.2±4.16 kg), SU (21.3±9.21 n), and VO2max (34.8±7.11 ml·kg-1·min-1) than the middle- (GS, 26.0±4.30 kg; SU, 16.4±10.27 n; VO2max, 31.1±4.86 ml·kg-1·min-1) and low-score groups (GS, 26.5±4.28 kg; SU, 13.2±9.43 n; VO2max, 30.9±4.84 ml·kg-1·min-1).
Table 4.

Comparison of health-related physical fitness among the three groups

Low-score group
(95% CI)
Middle-score group
(95% CI)
High-score group
(95% CI)
F-value Prob > F ηp2
Sit and reach (cm) 10.2±9.43a
(7.7-12.5)
10.5±9.20a
(8.3-12.8)
13.4±10.81a
(10.5-15.9)
1.960 .144 .021
Grip strength (kg) 26.5±4.28a
(25.5-27.6)
26.0±4.30a
(24.9-27.0)
29.2±4.16b
(28.2-30.2)
10.334 .0001 .101
Sit-ups (n) 13.2±9.43a
(10.9-15.7)
16.4±10.27a
(13.9-18.9)
21.3±9.21b
(18.9-23.6)
11.059 .0001 .108
VO2max (ml·kg-1·min-1) 30.9±4.84a
(29.7-32.2)
31.1±4.86a
(29.8-32.3)
34.8±7.11b
(32.9-36.6)
9.278 .0001 .092
HRmax (beats·min-1) 173.5±10.64a
(170.9-175.8)
172.5±8.24a
(170.2-174.5)
174.6±10.33a
(172.0-177.5)
.718 0.489 .008

Note. Values are expressed as mean ± standard deviation.

Different lowercase letters indicate significant differences among the groups

95% CI, 95% confidence interval; VO2max, maximal oxygen uptake; HRmax, maximal heart rate

DISCUSSION

The present study examined the effects of bone-specific PA on body composition, BMD, and health-related physical fitness in middle-aged women. This study revealed that bone-specific PA reduced percent body fat and increased FFM, whole-body BMD, lumbar BMD, GS, SU, and VO-2max.
It is well known that regular PA increases FFM and decreases percent body fat38. The results of this study showed that FFM in the high-score group was significantly higher than those in the middle- and low-score groups. Additionally, the high-score group showed a significantly lower percent body fat compared to the other two groups. These results are consistent with the results of the previous studies. Donnelly et al.39 reported that there was no difference in FM between women with a high PA level and a low PA level. Moreover, Thompson et al.40 reported that percent body fat in the high PA group was significantly lower than that in the low PA group in middle-aged women when measured by PA levels using the pedometer. Saravi and Sayegh18 reported that FFM in the habitual PA group was significantly higher than that in the sedentary group in premenopausal women when measured by PA levels using the IPAQ. Generally, participation in regular PA increases FFM and decreases percent body fat in middle-aged premenopausal women, which helps in preventing obesity and sarcopenia. Therefore, regular PA is highly recommended to improve body composition.
A lifestyle change (e.g., regular participation in PA, nutrition intake, and cessation of smoking and alcohol intake) is an essential goal to prevent osteoporosis and fractures. The results of BMD in our study showed that whole-body BMD in the high-score group was significantly higher than that in the low-score group. Moreover, the high-score group showed significantly higher lumbar BMD compared to the other two groups. These results were consistent with the results of the previous studies, which confirmed that the high PA level had a positive impact on femur BMD and lumbar BMD32,36,41. Furthermore, it was stated that healthy young adults with a high PA level resulted in higher lumbar BMD and higher femur BMD42. Morseth et al.43 reported that a high PA level was closely associated with high femoral BMD in healthy female adults. Additionally, the comparison of BMD based on the PA level in middle-aged women showed that women with a high PA level had higher lumbar BMD, femur BMD, and whole-body BMD than women with a low PA level44-46. Ultimately, it was revealed that women who have a high PA level during adulthood had a low risk of osteoporosis during late adulthood43,47. Therefore, to prevent osteopenia and osteoporosis and to restrain the rate of decrease in BMD with aging, it is necessary to participate in various physical activities, including high-impact exercise.
With aging, women’s musculoskeletal fitness and cardiorespiratory endurance gradually decrease48. However, participating in regular PA could improve musculoskeletal fitness, reducing the risk of chronic diseases and enhancing the overall health conditions49. The results of health-related physical fitness in this study showed that GS, SU, and VO2max in the high-score group were significantly higher than those in the middle- and low-score groups. Based on a previous study, female adults with a high PA level showed higher VO2max than female adults with a low PA level, and high cardiovascular endurance was positively associated with a high PA level50. Moreover, it was confirmed that the high PA level is positively associated with high physical fitness, which showed a beneficial effect on health conditions48. Therefore, participating in regular PA plays a vital role in improving health-related physical fitness and helps prevent musculoskeletal and cardiovascular diseases.
The present study revealed that a bone-specific PA reduced percent body fat and increased FFM, whole-body BMD, lumbar BMD, GS, SU, and VO2max in middle-aged women. We believe that a bone-specific PA could be useful in improving body composition, BMD, and health-related physical fitness in middle-aged women, ultimately enhancing their BMD and health conditions.

Acknowledgments

This work was supported by a grant from Kyung Hee University in 2018 (KHU-20180865).

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