Every day, we rely on our skeletal system; the skeletal system is responsible for our movement, protecting our organs, creating blood cells, and storing critical minerals. Many of us don’t give our bones much thought unless we break them. Some of us find that our bone health is less than optimal, and during a medical check-up, we learn that we have a severe level of bone loss.
Bone density refers to how much bone minerals, including calcium and other minerals, are held within the bone. Healthy bones are dense, and so they contain a high amount of mineral content. As we age, it’s critical that we maintain an increased bone density so that we can avoid life-limiting bone breaks.
There are many lifestyle choices that we can make so that our bone density is maintained. If you are concerned about your bone health or are unsure if your lifestyle meets the needs of your bones, talk to your health care professional. They may wish to complete a pain-free, non-invasive bone density test. Nutrition is critically important. Your doctor may recommend nutritional supplements that will help your bones to stay healthy.
A diet rich in vegetables, lean proteins, and high calcium foods is needed; you also need to ensure that your diet contains sufficient amounts of Vitamin D, Vitamin K, and calcium. Unless you are on a medically supervised diet, avoid a low-calorie diet. Along with exercise, a sound diet will help you keep a stable, healthy, weight which will also go a long way toward keeping your bones healthy.
If you are not yet active, maintaining bone health is yet another reason to start a regular exercise program. If you are sedentary, you run a higher risk of developing osteopenia and osteoporosis, both bone loss diseases. If you are a smoker or regularly drink alcohol, you are also at an increased risk of developing bone loss.
While regular exercise is beneficial for so many reasons, the type of exercise matters when it comes to bone health; maintaining bone health requires that you do weight-bearing exercises like walking and jogging. In addition, this exercise needs to begin in childhood so that bones can reach their optimal and maximal bone mass. Regular exercise will also improve your muscular strength and endurance, as well as your coordination. These elements will also help you to prevent a fall; falls can lead to life-limiting fractures.
The choices for weight-bearing exercises are many, so explore the many options! Consider both winter and summer sports, such as running, cross country skiing, group fitness classes, snowshoeing, and the list goes on. As long as your movement causes you to be working against gravity, you are completing a weight-bearing exercise.
Another critical type of exercise that will enhance your bone health is resistance training. Resistance training is vital for maintaining and increasing your muscular strength and endurance, burning calories, and building bone health. Just like weight-bearing exercise, there are many forms of resistance training that you may want to try.
Bodyweight exercises are a great place to start, as is using resistance bands and tubing. If you have a home gym, bands and tubing are affordable, space-saving additions to your workout. Free weights are another fantastic option for your resistance training and do not require significant expenditure. You can use items around your home such as jugs, canned goods, and backpacks filled to create weight. Your local gym likely has a full complement of exercise machines; check in with the gym staff if you are unsure how to use the devices correctly.
Adding either or both weight-bearing and resistance training to your daily routine does require some thought. First, check-in with your health care team to ensure your current health status is appropriate for a new activity. Second, if you are unsure how to exercise safely and correctly, hire an exercise professional to meet your exercise and bone health goals!