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Jumping for Joy…and Strong Bones

Assistant professor Kathy Gunter shows undergraduate researcher Courtney Lovemark the correct positioning for taking a bone-density scan.

As a third grader, Molly Johnson probably wondered why she and some of her friends spent their physical education time repeatedly jumping off a box while her other friends got to play out in the  school yard. Now a high school senior, Molly recently learned that her one-year jumping regimen increased the bone mass in her hips and may actually help ward off osteoporosis as she grows older. “The results of our research are really quite remarkable,” says assistant professor Kathy Gunter, Extension family and community development and nutrition and exercise science. “We found that this single acute bout of  exercise involving impact for 15 minutes two to three times a week for one school year promoted an increase in bone mass that is still measurable and evident nine years later,” she explains. “This provides  convincing data for early intervention to potentially optimize peak bone mass accrual and reduce the risks of fracture later in life. We’re seeking funding so we can continue to follow these kids  until they reach skeletal maturity. Then we’ll be able to determine the true effects of the intervention on the development of peak bone mass.”

Molly Johnson, part of the original study group, gets a final assessment from Courtney Lovemark.

The BUGSY (Building the Growing Skeleton in Youth) study started in  1997, supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health. Since that time, data have been collected on more than 300 elementary school children to measure their bone mineral content (BMC). The intervention lasted nine months (control groups did stretching exercises or the usual physical education curriculum). The students returned annually to the OSU Bone Research Laboratory for follow-up  assessments. “It’s a big job made manageable with the help of our OSU students,” Kathy says. One of those is Courtney Lovemark, an Honors College sophomore and recipient of an Undergraduate Research Awards Program grant that supported her as a researcher in the Bone Research Laboratory during winter and spring terms. She measured, weighed, and prepared the students for their bone-density (DXA) scans. “Being involved in BUGSY, helping gather data, and learning about this research has given me great information for my honors thesis,” Courtney says. She’s writing about how physical activity and  diet affect the development of obesity throughout childhood.