Bones lay the foundation for life as we know it in our bodies. They give us shape, help us stand up, and hold everything in place. It is important to give them as much love and attention as possible. Through diet and exercise, you can strengthen your bones so that they are bigger and stronger.
Osteoporosis, or porous bone, is a condition where the bones in the body become weak and brittle. When healthy, the body perfectly eliminates and creates new bone tissue. In osteoporosis, the body sheds bone tissue faster than it can produce more. This leads to bones that appear porous and increases the risk of fractures.
Foods for bone health
Foods eaten day in and day out can have a big impact on the health of your bones. Regularly choosing fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, low-fat dairy products, and fish are some of the best foods to try.
Fruits: Papaya, orange, raisins, banana, plantains, prunes, grapefruits, strawberries, pineapple …
Vegetables: Spinach, kale, green cabbage, mustard leaves, broccoli, potatoes, peppers, Brussels sprouts …
Legumes: Chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans, red 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 or skimmed yogurt, milk and cheese
Fish: Preserved sardines, salmon, mackerel and tuna
In the interest of bone health, it’s important to note that certain foods may hamper your efforts to strengthen your bones. Limiting your salt intake, moderating your alcohol and caffeine intake, and limiting your intake of soft drinks are additional recommendations.
Exercise for healthy bones
The bones get bigger, stronger, and denser the more you use them. If you don’t engage in an activity that puts a strain on your bones, they won’t get a message telling them that they need to be strong. Those who do not exercise are at risk of having lower bone mass or density. When you engage in weight-bearing exercises, your brain sends a chemical message to your bones that tells them to be ready to take the weight and impact.
There are two types of exercise that are important for building and maintaining bone mass and density: weight-bearing and resistance exercises.
Weight-bearing exercises are those that work your body against gravity, such as running, walking, climbing stairs, dancing, and tennis. These are exercises in which your feet and legs support your weight. Every time your foot hits the ground, you put stress on your bones, which respond by maintaining or sometimes increasing their strength, which can be measured in terms of increased bone mineral density. The greater the impact of the activity contact, the greater the benefit to your bones. Therefore, weight-bearing exercises that include running or jumping are more beneficial for your bone health than milder weight-bearing exercises such as walking. Swimming and cycling are not weight-bearing exercises, although they are excellent aerobic exercises.
To maintain the bone building benefits of weight-bearing exercise, you must continue to exercise regularly, over the long term. If you stop exercising, the benefit wears off. Experts advise 30 minutes of weight-bearing exercise each day to maintain bone health.
The second type of exercise that is important for bone health is resistance exercise, which uses muscle strength to build muscle mass and strengthen bones. These activities include weight lifting, such as using free weights and weight machines available at your local gym. Incorporating resistance training 2-3 days a week, 30 minutes per session, has been shown to help maintain healthy bones.
5 tips for strong bones
- When sitting for long periods of time, get up for 5 minutes every hour.
- Walk and stand as often as possible during your daily activities.
- Try to stand as straight as possible, lifting your head towards the ceiling.
- Wear soft-soled shoes and thick socks to reduce impact on weight-bearing joints.
- When lifting, avoid bending down from the waist to remove objects from the floor or in low places. Instead, bend with your knees. Keep your back straight when bending over.
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 begin to establish a regular exercise routine.
Note: Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program.
Eating well and being active on a daily basis are the keys to opening the door to excellent bone health. The more often you make these choices, the more natural it will feel. Be patient and remember, health is a journey.