This study investigates the relationship between lifetime physical activity and bone mineral density (BMD) at various sites in 129 healthy men and women aged 72.1 +/- 6.5 years. BMD was measured by dual energy x-ray absorptiometry, and physical activity was assessed by using the QUANTAP system (Quantification de l'Activité Physique), a standardized and structured computer-assisted interview tool designed to assess lifetime physical activity. Linear regression models controlling for age, gender, height, body mass, lean mass, and smoking habits were performed. Higher levels of sporting activity during youth were associated with greater lumbar spine BMD ( p < .001). Similarly, femoral neck BMD was greatest in subjects who reported regularly taking part in sports over the previous 20 years ( p <. 05) and during their whole lifetime ( p < 0.05). Sporting activity at the time of bone mass development increases subsequent lumbar spine BMD, and more recent sporting activity contributes to the preservation of femoral neck BMD. These results suggest that physical activity has a differential influence on BMD at different sites and at different ages, possibly related to the processes of bone construction and bone aging taking place at the time.