A study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health shows "tennis players have stronger bones than non-players." Playing tennis, the study indicates, helps protect against the loss of bone mineral during pregnancy.
The pilot study, of 18 healthy women between ages 18 and 39, showed that while bone mineral density levels dropped overall during pregnancy, they were still "significantly higher in tennis players" versus the control group at 12 weeks and through the birth.
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati and Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati conducted the study, titled "Bone Mineral Loss During Pregnancy: Is Tennis Protective?" It showed that bone mineral density (BMD) was greater in pregnant women who played recreational tennis when compared with sedentary pregnant women. Tennis was the only exercise activity that the pregnant women participated in.
Ten women in the study did no exercise during their pregnancy, while eight played recreational tennis. The tennis players were recruited from clubs in the greater Cincinnati area. All were rated above 2.5 on the National Tennis Rating Program scale and played tennis at least twice a week for more than 30 minutes at a time.
The players kept log sheets of their activity, and they all generally stopped playing by the third trimester, by their own choice.
Importantly, during the period when they reduced or stopped playing tennis, bone mineral measures also fell.
"'Detraining' may undo positive benefits" of exercise such as tennis when it comes to BMD, the study said.
"This study has potential important public health implications regarding recommendations for continuation of activity during pregnancy," wrote researchers Mina Dimov, Ph.D.; Jane Khoury, Ph.D.; and Reginald Tsang, M.D.
They caution, however, that it is a pilot study, with a small sample size, intended to provide information relevant for future research.
The study was supported by the Tennis Industry Association, the Women's Sports Foundation and the National Osteoporosis Foundation, among other groups. To download the complete study, click here.
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