July 12 (UPI) -- A new study by the University of Exeter in Britain found that playing soccer can improve bone development in adolescent boys.
"Adolescence is the key time for bone growth. Once a person reaches puberty, the next five years are vitally important in this respect," Dr. Luis Gracia-Marco of the University of Exeter, said in a press release.
The study, which was published in the July edition of the Journal of Bone & Mineral Research, compared adolescent soccer players to swimmers, cyclists and a control group of boys not playing sports, finding that playing soccer can lead to significantly better bones after one year.
"Our research shows that playing football can improve bone development in comparison to swimming and cycling," said Dimitris Vlachopoulos, of the department of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Exeter.
"Though we focused on aspiring professionals who played as much as nine hours a week, playing football for three hours a week might be enough for a substantial effect."
Researchers followed 116 boys age 12 to 14 for a year taking several measurements of bone mineral content, or BMC.
After one year, soccer players had higher BMC compared to swimmers and cyclists with a 7 percent higher BMC at the lumbar spine and a 5 percent higher BMC at the femoral neck.
"We already knew exercise was key for bone growth, but here we clarify what type of exercise," Vlachopoulos said. "Although we didn't study other sports, it's reasonable to suppose that weight-bearing, high-impact, high-intensity exercise like tennis, badminton, basketball and handball will have similar effects to football."