GYMNASTICS is better for women's bones than running, according to sports scientists at the University of Oregon. Their study, reported in the New Scientist, compared women gymnasts with runners, and found that most of the athletes had extremely low oestrogen levels, which can result in osteoporosis, or brittle bone disease, even in teenage athletes.

However, the researchers also found that low oestrogen levels among the gymnasts were countered by the effects of exercise. Compared with the runners, the gymnasts had 20 per cent more bone mass in their lower spines and 23 per cent more in their hips.