Turns out, in order to have strong and healthy bones, you got to punish your skeleton a bit.
In childhood and adolescence, most of our bone growth and bone density occurs. As we grow older, our bodies lose bone density. After menopause, women are especially at risk for osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis literally means “porous bone”. It is a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both.
Osteoporotic bones have lost density or mass and contain abnormal tissue structure. As bones become less dense, they weaken and are more likely to break.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, one in two women and up to one in four men will break a bone in their lifetime due to osteoporosis.
Loss of bone density may accelerate as time passes, but you can take steps in your 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond to help fortify skeletal strength and prevent the worst effects of bone loss. Keep reading to find out what steps to take to reverse bone loss and have super sturdy bones.
Have lots of calcium
Your bones are nothing like the frame of a building. If a skyscraper's steel skeleton is shaken by an earthquake, it weakens. But shocks to the bone only make it stronger.
Bone is living tissue, and it responds to your activities. Mechanical stress – the impact of your feet pounding pavement, the weight of a barbell, or the shock that travels up your arm when you whack a baseball – creates microscopic fractures. Your bone not only repairs the tiny fractures, but it also responds by building more bone on top of them.
You can prevent or reverse bone loss with a diet that is rich in nutrients and minerals that are key to building and maintaining bone: calcium, vitamin D and phosphorous.
Choose calcium-rich foods like milk, yogurt, cheese, and kefir. Don‘t forget non-dairy sources of calcium either, such as fortified soy and rice beverages, canned salmon with bones, leafy green vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and fortified orange juice. Ask your doctor to learn more about calcium-rich foods.
Eating foods rich in calcium is a good start, but you also have to make sure your bones can use it. You may get enough calcium in your diet, but you rob your bones of it if you drink lots of soda. The phosphorus in soft drinks inhibits calcium absorption, so you must avoid soda drinks at all costs.
Vitamin D helps you absorb calcium in foods. You can find vitamin D in fatty fish like salmon and sardines, margarine, and egg yolks. Consult your doctor to possibly get food supplements with vitamin D.
Keep it active
Then you have to punish your skeleton a bit.
High-impact activities such as running and weightlifting build bone. Strength training is the key here, experts emphasize.
Weight-bearing exercise, which is any activity that makes you work against gravity, builds and maintains bone density. Enjoy high-impact dancing, jogging, running or tennis.
If you prefer low-impact workouts, try walking (outside or on a treadmill), hiking or elliptical or stair-climbing gym equipment.
Resistance training with free weights, machines or a resistance band also builds bone, particularly in your upper body and spine.
You may also engage in stretching exercises like yoga and tai chi to help improve balance and coordination, which will lower your risk of falling and breaking bones.
Performing at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week is good not only for your bones but also for your overall health. Be sure to consult a physician before starting any exercise program.
While there isn't a lot of research on the topic yet, early evidence suggests that collagen supplements may help protect bone health.
Collagen is the main protein found in bones. It contains the amino acids glycine, proline and lysine, which help build bone, muscle, ligaments and other tissues.
Collagen hydrolysate comes from animal bones and is commonly known as gelatin. It has been used to relieve joint pain for many years.
Although most studies have looked at collagen's effects on joint conditions like arthritis, it appears to have beneficial effects on bone health as well.
Check on your weight
In addition to eating a nutritious diet and having food supplements, maintaining a healthy weight can help support bone health.
A healthy weight is essential for bone density — people who are underweight have a higher risk of developing bone disease, while excess body weight puts additional stress on the bones.
You should avoid rapid weight loss and cycling between gaining and losing weight. As a person loses weight they can lose bone density, but the density is not restored when a person gains back the weight. This reduction in density can lead to weaker bones.
Maintaining a stable normal or slightly higher than normal weight is your best bet when it comes to protecting your bone health.
Bone health is important at all stages of life. However, having strong bones is something people tend to take for granted, as symptoms often don't appear until bone loss is advanced.
Fortunately, there are many nutrition and lifestyle habits that can help build and maintain strong bones — and it's never too early to start.