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Osteoporos Int. 2010 Apr;21(4):609-17. doi: 10.1007/s00198-009-0999-6. Epub 2009 Jul 3.

Peripubertal estrogen levels and physical activity affect femur geometry in young adult women.

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Department of Anthropology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


The growing skeleton is particularly responsive to exercise around the time of puberty, suggesting a possible role for estrogen in mechanical adaptation in young women. We assessed femoral neck strength index at age 17 in young women with varying adolescent physical activity levels and E2 levels in the first 3 years after menarche. The results indicate that both E2 levels in the first year after menarche and adolescent physical activity are positively associated with bone strength in young adulthood, such that hormone levels may modify human osteogenic responses to exercise.


It is well established that physical activity contributes to bone strength in young females, but less is known about how peripubertal estrogen affects skeletal responses to exercise.


We used data from 84 participants in the Penn State Young Women's Health Study to test the prediction that young women who (1) had higher E2 levels during the first year after menarche or (2) were more physically active in adolescence will have greater bone strength at the end of adolescence. Subjects were divided into tertiles of physical activity and of E2 level in the first, second, and third postmenarchal years, and femoral strength was calculated from dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scans of the proximal femur using hip structure analysis.


At age 17, subjects with the highest E2 levels in year 1 after menarche had 5-14% greater strength in the narrow neck and intertrochanteric region, and the most active subjects had 10-11% greater strength in the femoral narrow neck vs. less active girls.


This study suggests that both physical activity and peripubertal estrogen have important influences on young adult bone strength and that hormone levels may be mediators of human osteogenic responses to exercise.

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