Bones set the foundation for life as we know it in our bodies. They give us shape, help us to stand tall, and keep everything in place. It’s important to give them as much love and attention as we can. Through diet and exercise, you can build up your bones to be bigger and stronger.
Osteoporosis, or porous bone, is a condition where the body’s bones become weak and brittle. When healthy, the body removes and creates new bone tissue perfectly. In osteoporosis, the body is getting rid of bone tissue faster than it can make more. This leads to bones that appear porous and increases the chance of fracture.
Foods for Bone Health
The foods eaten day after day can have a big impact on your bone health. Regularly choosing fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, low-fat dairy, and fish are some of the best foods to try.
Fruits: Papaya, orange, raisins, banana, plantains, prunes, grapefruit, strawberries, pineapples…
Vegetables: Spinach, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, broccoli, potatoes, bell peppers, brussels sprouts…
Legumes: Chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, lima beans, black-eyed peas…
Whole Grains: Oats, brown rice, barley, millet, bulgur, buckwheat…
Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, pecans, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, Brazil nuts…
Dairy Products: Low-fat or non-fat yogurt, milk, and cheese
Fish: Canned sardines, salmon, mackerel, and tuna
In the interest of bone health, it’s important to note there are some foods that could put a damper on your efforts to build stronger bones. Limiting your salt intake, moderating your alcohol and caffeine intakes, and limiting your intake of soft drinks are some additional recommendations.
Exercising for Bone Health
Bones become bigger, stronger and denser the more you place demands on it. If you do not engage in activity that puts a stress on your bones, then they do not receive any messages that they need to be strong. Those who do not exercise run the risk of having lower bone mass or density. When you engage in weight-bearing exercise, your brain sends a chemical message to your bones that tells them to be ready to handle the weight and impact.
There are two types of exercises that are important for building and maintaining bone mass and density: weight-bearing and resistance exercises.
Weight Bearing Exercise
Weight bearing exercises are those that make your body work against gravity, such as running, walking, stair-climbing, dancing, and tennis. These are exercises in which your feet and legs are bearing your weight. Each time your foot hits the ground you apply a stress to your bones, which respond by maintaining or sometimes increasing their strength, which can be measured in terms of increased bone mineral density. The higher the impact of the activity contact, the greater the benefit to your bones. Therefore weight-bearing exercises that include running or jumping are of greater benefit to your bone health than gentler weight-bearing exercises such as walking. Swimming and bicycling are not weight-bearing, although they are great aerobic exercises.
To maintain the bone-strengthening benefits of weight-bearing exercise, you need to keep up the exercise regularly, for the long-term. If you stop exercising, the benefit wears off. Experts advise 30 minutes of weight-bearing exercise every day to maintain bone health.
The second type of exercise that is important for bone health is resistance exercises that use muscular strength to improve muscle mass and strengthen bone. These activities include weightlifting, such as using free weights and weight machines found at your local gym. Incorporating resistance training 2 or 3 days a week, for 30 minutes per session, has been shown to help maintain healthy bones.
5 Tips for Strong Bones
- When sitting for long periods of time, stand up for 5 minutes of every hour.
- Walk and stand as often as possible within the course of your daily activities.
- Try to stand as erect as possible, lifting head up towards the ceiling.
- Wear soft soled shoes and thick socks to decrease shock on weight-bearing joints.
- When lifting, avoid bending from the waist to get objects off the floor or in low places. Bend with your knees instead. Keep your back straight when bending.
You don’t need to join a gym or pay for a personal trainer to be physically active. Starting with these suggestions can help strengthen your bones. Once you feel confident, you can start building up to a regular exercise routine.
Note: Always check with your physician before starting any exercise program
Eating well and getting in some daily movement are the keys to unlock the door to great bone health. The more often you make these choices, the more natural it will feel. Be patient and remember, health is a journey.