The purpose of this study is to investigate the effects of non-weight-bearing exercise on growing bone. Male Wistar rats (7 week-old) were assigned to one baseline control group, one control group and two swimming training groups, which were trained with 2 and 4% body-weight mass added, respectively. After an 8-week training period, three groups showed significant development compared to the baseline control group. Among the three 15-week-old groups, swimming-trained rats were lower in body weight (BW), densitometry and size-related measurements. In femoral biomechanical testing, swimming training groups were significantly lower in yield moment and ultimate moment, which may be due to a significantly lower long bone cross-sectional moment of inertia. However, the two swimming groups were higher in post-yield energy absorption and displacement. Further, in estimated tissue-level biomaterial properties, no differences were shown in yield stress, strain or toughness among the three groups. Using BW as a covariate, results of ANCOVA showed no differences in size-related parameters among the three groups, and some parameters were even higher in the two swimming groups. Regarding Pearson's correlation, size-related parameters correlated well to BW and whole bone strength but not to tissue post-yield behaviors. In conclusion, when compared to age-matched control group, swimming rats showed lower bone strength and lower yield energy absolutely at the structural level, but similar yield stress and yield toughness at the tissue level. Moreover, swimming training benefited growing bone in post-yield behaviors. Further studies should investigate the parameters that contribute to this exercise-induced post-yield behavior.
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