Exercise Loading and Bone Structure

A cross-sectional study that investigated the effects of physical loading on the structure of the femoral neck in athletes representing different sports.


The prevention of osteoporotic fractures can be supported, for example, by improving bone structure and strength. It is not yet known what kind of physical activity is the best way to achieve a strong bone structure. On the other hand, excessive loading may predispose an individual to stress fractures and an increased risk of accidents as well as to the damaging of joint and cartilage surfaces.


The aim of the study was to investigate the impact of loading caused by different sports on bone structure and strength. In addition, the study investigated the damage caused to joints and cartilage surfaces from heavy loading. Based on this information, the aim was to find a loading model that improves bone structure as effectively and safely as possible.


The study investigated the connection between the femoral neck structures of adult female athletes competing in different sports (aerobics, volleyball, swimming, racket sports, soccer, orienteering, weightlifting, cycling, speed skating, cross-country skiing and hurdling).

In addition, the study investigated male mogul skiers’ and slalom skiers' bone structures. Mogul skiers experience heavy impact which focuses on areas clinically significant in terms of osteoporosis, i.e. the femoral neck and the lumbar spine. Mogul skiing also creates heavy loading on joints and cartilage surfaces. This allows comparison of the disadvantages and benefits of the loading created by the sport and it also clarifies the possible link between heavy loading and a favourable bone structure.


The results showed that odd-impact loading through exercise can strengthen bones just as effectively as high-impact loading. The study assessed, for the first time ever, the link between exercise loading and the three-dimensional structure of the top of the femur.

The results clearly showed that moderate loading through a versatile exercise routine can strengthen bones, including the clinically significant area around the femoral neck, effectively. Heavy, maximal jumps and impacts are not necessarily needed to achieve the effect. A strengthened bone is likely to be less prone to fractures due to an impact caused by, for example, falling. Exercise does not only strengthen bones, but it also improves muscle performance and speed strength which improves the stability of movement and reduced falls.


The results have been utilized to prepare exercise recommendations for different target groups in collaboration with the Finnish Osteoporosis Association.

The Ministry of Education and Culture took part in funding the study from 2005 until 2008.





Harri Sievänen, Research Director



For publications (international and Finnish) of this research see the Finnish description.
To find the list of publications (Julkaisuja), scroll the page down.



Last Modified: 27.11.2014


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