Physical Activity During Life Course and Bone Mass

A Systematic Review of Methods and Findings From Cohort Studies With Young Adults

Renata M Bielemann; Jeovany Martinez-Mesa; Denise P Gigante


BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2013;14(77) 

In This Article


Search Strategy

The literature search was conducted in the databases Pubmed, LILACS, Scielo and Web of Science. The search was performed by a single author and occurred up to May 2012 without date limits or language restrictions. Three command groups were employed to find articles. In the first group, we included the terms related to bone mineral density or content (bone density; bone mineral density; bone mass; bone mineral content; bone content). In the second one the terms related to physical activity were entered (physical activity; motor activity; inactivity; sedentarism; sedentary; sports; exercise). In the third group, we added the terms to restrict the study design (longitudinal; cohort; prospective; follow-up). Within each group, we used the Boolean operator 'OR' and between the groups we used the Boolean operator 'AND'. In the Pubmed database we restricted the search for studies performed with adults (19–44 years), whereas in the other ones we added a fourth group of commands related to age group (adults, young adults, adulthood).

Selection of Studies

A database with the search results was generated, excluding duplicate references, totaling 750 articles. The selection of articles included in the final review was performed independently by two reviewers (RMB and JMM), based on inclusion and exclusion criteria previously defined. In the case of disagreement, the selection was evaluated by a third reviewer (DPG). Initially, each reviewer selected the titles for articles of interest. The second step consisted of the examination of abstracts from those papers previously selected. Then, we proceeded to search the full text. The references of all selected full text articles were also reviewed.

Eligibility Criteria

Criteria used to identify the manuscripts were regarding subjects, study design and measurement of outcomes. Concerning the subjects, studies should be conducted in healthy adult subjects with age from 20 to 40 years (or average in this interval) and not specifically athletes. The age was limited up to 40 years though the maintenance phase of bone mass occurs during young to middle adulthood,[1] decreases on bone mass occur at earlier ages, mainly in women, due to premenopausal or menopausal periods. Another criterion was that the studies should evaluate bone mass using the method of dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) in at least one out of these three sites: total body, lumbar spine and femoral neck. The choice of this method was due to the evidence shown by the literature that DXA is the main method for evaluation of bone mineral density. Besides, it is the gold standard to diagnose osteoporosis.[1,7–9] Regarding the study design, we included only cohort studies, which performed at least one longitudinal analysis between physical activity and outcomes.

Exclusion Criteria

We excluded studies in which the sample was made up by subjects with diseases which are known to affect the bone metabolism (i.e. lupus erythematosus, cerebral palsy, cancer, etc.) and those that used other methods to measure bone mass. Cohort studies which performed only cross-sectional analysis between main exposure and outcomes were also excluded.

Quality Assessment

The evaluation of the quality of evidence was also performed independently by two authors (RMB and JMM). The disagreements were discussed between the two authors and the final decision was made by consensus between the two examiners. The instrument proposed by Downs and Black[10] was used to assess the quality of studies. These authors devised an instrument consisting of 27 questions that evaluate reporting, external validity, internal validity (bias and confounding), and statistical power. In items 4, 14, and 15, "intervention" was interpreted as "exposure," and in no. 19 "compliance with the intervention" was replaced by "avoidance of misclassification error of the exposure". Since the instrument was originally conceived for the evaluation of clinical trials, items applicable specifically to this study design (8, 13, 23, and 24) were not considered. All questions received scores 0 or 1, with the exception of question 5, which ranged from 0 to 2, depending on whether the statistical power of the survey was explicitly stated in the article as being at least 80%. Thus, the maximum score achievable by an article was 24 points. This manuscript was written according to current recommendations of Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) Statement.[11]