Benefits of Exercise for Pre-term Babies

A study out of the International Osteoporosis Foundation and published in the journal Calcified Tissue International and Musculoskeletal Research, conducted research to determine if an increase in physical activity could increase the bone strength of very low birth weight per-term infants. These babies have lower bone mineral mass and a greater need for bone nutrients compared to most newborn infants. This sets them up for a greater risk of osteopenia (low bone density) and fractures later in life.

Previously, research has tried to help pre-term babies by focusing on nutritional therapy via intravenous or tube feeding, but have been only partially successful in improving bone mineral mass. This study aims to see if physical activity interventions – comprising a daily program of passive range-of-motion-assisted exercise of the large joints – can help these infants.

The study was comprised of 34 pre-term babies randomly assigned to one of three groups. Starting at eight days into life and continuing for four weeks, the participants were in either the twice a day, once a day or control groups. The researchers used quantitative ultrasound of tibial bone speed of sound (SOS) to measure bone health.

The results of the study were that the 13 babies in the twice a day physical activity group had a significantly lower rate of decrease in bone mass compared to the once-daily group and the no intervention control group.

The lead author added, “Our study is the first to demonstrate that the bone mass response to exercise in pre-term infants is dose-related. Although more research is needed to determine the optimal duration, frequency and type of exercise intervention, we found that the twice daily intervention was safe and had a greater effect on bone strength.”

So if your infant was born early, an increase in their exercise could be the key to increasing their bone mass to normal levels.


raziRazi Berry, Founder and Publisher of Naturopathic Doctor News & Review (ndnr.com) and NaturalPath (thenatpath.com), has spent the last decade as a natural medicine advocate and marketing whiz. She has galvanized and supported the naturopathic community, bringing a higher quality of healthcare to millions of North Americans through her publications. A self-proclaimed health-food junkie and mother of two; she loves all things nature, is obsessed with organic gardening, growing fruit trees (not easy in Phoenix), laughing until she snorts, and homeschooling. She is a little bit crunchy and yes, that is her real name.

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