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Exercise May Improve Bone Health in Youth With Type 1 Diabetes

In This Article

  • Type 1 diabetes typically appears in young individuals and can have a deleterious effect on bone health
  • Massachusetts General Hospital researchers retrospectively analyzed bone-specific physical activity questionnaire data on girls aged 10 to 16, both with and without type 1 diabetes
  • Both groups were equally physically active, but those with diabetes who exercised less had worse markers of bone health compared to those without diabetes
  • These findings suggest that physical activity may improve bone health and reduce fracture risk in young individuals with type 1 diabetes

According to the NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases national resource website, type 1 diabetes typically appears in young individuals, often causing poor bone quality and increased risk of fractures.

Massachusetts General Hospital researchers investigated how exercise might affect bone health in youth with type 1 diabetes. They conducted a small cross-sectional study that examined markers of bone health and levels of physical activity in young girls with and without type 1 diabetes.

The study was presented in a poster session at the American Society of Bone and Mineral Research 2022 Annual Meeting, led by senior author Deborah M. Mitchell, MD, pediatric endocrinologist and co-director of the Pediatric Bone and Mineral Metabolism Disorders Clinic at Mass General for Children, and colleagues.

Study Findings

The researchers retrospectively analyzed a group of girls aged 10 to 16 years old who either had type 1 diabetes or did not. The participants completed the bone-specific physical activity questionnaire (BPAQ), which predicts parameters of bone strength in healthy young adults. This was analyzed alongside imaging tests of the participants' bone health.

Based on the BPAQ answers, both groups of participants were found to be equally physically active. However, among the participants with BPAQ scores below the median—meaning they exercised less—those with type 1 diabetes had worse markers of bone health compared to those without diabetes. Among the participants who were more physically active, there was no significant difference in bone health between those with diabetes and those without.

This indicates that physical activity may improve bone health and reduce fracture risk among young individuals with type 1 diabetes. Further studies are needed to confirm whether bone-loading exercise should be recommended, and if so, how many hours of physical activity per week would promote optimal bone health.

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