Bones play many roles in the body — providing structure, protecting organs, anchoring muscles and storing calcium. While it's particularly important to take steps to build strong and healthy bones during childhood and adolescence, you can take steps during adulthood to protect bone health too.Research has shown that bone strength peaks between the ages of 20 and 30. This means that, after the age of 30, both men and women begin to lose bone mass unless they take action to prevent it. Unfortunately, by the time we begin to think about our bones, we may have already suffered serious damage.
What affects bone health?According to the Mayo Clinic, many factors affect your bone health:
- The amount of calcium in your diet. A diet low in calcium contributes to diminished bone density, early bone loss and an increased risk of fractures.
- Physical activity. People who are physically inactive have a higher risk of osteoporosis than do their more-active counterparts.
- Tobacco and alcohol use. Research suggests that tobacco use contributes to weak bones. Similarly, regularly having more than two alcoholic drinks a day increases the risk of osteoporosis, possibly because alcohol can interfere with the body's ability to absorb calcium.
- Gender, size and age. You're at greater risk of osteoporosis if you're a woman, because women have less bone tissue than do men. You're also at risk if you're extremely thin (with a body mass index of 19 or less) or have a small body frame because you may have less bone mass to draw from as you age. Also your bones become thinner and weaker as you age.
- Race and family history. You're at greatest risk of osteoporosis if you're white or of Asian descent. In addition, having a parent or sibling who has osteoporosis puts you at greater risk — especially if you also have a family history of fractures.
- Hormone levels. Too much thyroid hormone can cause bone loss. In women, bone loss increases dramatically at menopause due to dropping estrogen levels. Prolonged periods absence of menstruation (amenorrhea), before menopause also increases the risk of osteoporosis. In men, low testosterone levels can cause a loss of bone mass.
- Eating disorders and other conditions. People who have anorexia or bulimia are at risk of bone loss. In addition, stomach surgery (gastrectomy), weight-loss surgery and conditions such as Crohn's disease, celiac disease and Cushing's disease can affect your body's ability to absorb calcium.
- Exercise. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, physicians’ primary recommendation for strong bones is daily, weight-bearing exercise. Weight-bearing workouts include walking, jogging, yoga, Tai Chi and weight training or resistance exercise. Activities such as biking and swimming, unfortunately, don’t count in this instance because your weight is supported either by the bike or the water. Regular, weight-bearing exercise is a signal to the body to deposit minerals in the bones, especially in the hips, spine and legs, where the minerals can be used to fortify the bones.
- Maintain a healthy diet. Add several servings of leafy greens and calcium-rich vegetables (like broccoli and kale) to your daily diet. Seafood is also a good source of calcium, especially salmon, sardines and shellfish like clams, oysters and shrimp.
- Boost your calcium consumption. When most people think bones, they think calcium. This mineral is essential for the proper development of teeth and bones. (Not to mention it’s a huge helper in proper muscle function, nerve signaling, hormone secretion, and blood pressure.) But calcium isn’t the end-all, be-all bone loss cure. The key might be to help the body absorb calcium by pairing calcium-rich foods with those high in vitamin D. Some studies on postmenopausal women have shown that simply adding calcium alone to the diet doesn’t have a huge effect on bone density (though follow-up studies have suggested the opposite). Foods that are good sources of calcium include yogurt, cheese, milk and leafy greens.
- Add vitamin D to your diet. Like I mentioned above, where there’s calcium, there must be vitamin D. The two work together to help the body absorb bone-boosting calcium. Boost vitamin D consumption by dining on shrimp, fortified foods like cereal and orange juice, sardines, eggs (in the yolks) and tuna.
- Get sun exposure. The body also produces vitamin D when exposed to the sun — 10 to 15 minutes of exposure three times per week will suffice. Vitamin D’s importance to bone health has been proven in studies on “seasonal bone loss” — elderly people can lose more bone mass during the winter because of lack of sun exposure. But, don’t forget to put on sun screen before venturing into the summer sun’s rays.
Fitness for Health is proud to debut a revolutionary, 12-week Bone and Joint Health Program for adults and seniors that capitalizes on weight-bearing, fitness activities. This new program helps to improve posture and increase bone density, strength and balance while counteracting the effects of osteoporosis, osteopenia and aging.The Bone and Joint Health Program elicits results faster and more effectively than traditional exercise or pharmaceuticals through two state-of-the-art fitness technologies:
- bioDensityTM - Weight-bearing exercises are the key to stimulating bone growth, and the greater the weight applied, the better the results. The osteogenic loading that patients receive is multiples of bodyweight, and beyond what is typically seen in exercise. Research has shown, bone density gains that averaged 7% in the hip and 7.7% in the spine over one year using bioDensity (Jaquish, 2013). These results are multiples of what the current interventions can do for bone density.
- Power PlateTM- Power Plate is a whole body vibration platform that allows for reflexive engagement of the neuromuscular system at rapid and repeatable oscillation. This intervention has been clinically shown to increase balance and stability in both healthy and aging-frail populations.
After each session, you’ll also receive an email of your performance evaluation detailing and analyzing your overall progress and offering tips to enhance your program.Call us at 301-231-7138 to learn more about improving your bone strength. Read about our pilot study with the Hebrew Home, a living facility for senior citizens, to learn more about the benefits of exercise as you grow older.