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Researchers at the University of Cincinnati have found that young people who get lots of weight bearing exercise — for example, carrying hay bales or shoveling chicken feed — may developed skeletal problems in later life.

Amit Bhattacharya, professor of environmental health, and his research team compared the bone quality and mass of 36 boys from Butler County, Ohio; 18 of the boys had been doing farm work from a young age. They found that the farm boys “had significantly lower bone-damping ability” — their bones couldn’t absorb shocks as well.

“We’ve detected signs that high levels of cumulative weight-bearing activity during a time of rapid bone growth could cause chronic trauma to bone growth plates,” said Bhattacharya. “Larger studies are needed to determine the extent of damage, but our initial findings support taking a closer look at how much physical activity farming children are doing and make sure their bone is developing normally for their age.”

Bhattacharya emphasized that regular weight-bearing exercise is good for people of all ages. But those younger than age 20, who are still building bone mass, are more vulnerable to skeletal injury from excessive or repetitive lifting.

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