As humans, we are born with about 300 bones, but we drop to about 206 as we get older. This is because many different bones fuse together to become one larger bone. However, our bones don’t stop changing once they’ve fused together— we reach our peak bone mass around age 30 and begin to lose bone density from there. Our bones are a very important part of our body, so it’s essential that we take care of them.
Our bones may be something that we take for granted because we don’t really think about them until a problem arises— and it’s usually later in life. Our bones allow us to stand upright and have better posture, and they also provide balance, strength, and support for the entire body. Even some of our most vital organs are protected by bones (the rib cage).
So our bones are very important, and without them, we would suffer a lot more injuries. This is why people with bone diseases (there are many different types) have to be more careful. It’s important to start taking care of your bones as soon as possible.
Improving bone health can be done in the same way you’d improve your overall health: by exercising, eating healthy, and abstaining from unhealthy behaviors.
Regular physical activity helps to strengthen the bones— especially resistance and weight-bearing exercises. Lifting weights counts as both resistance training and weight-bearing exercises. Weight-bearing exercises also include the following:
Doing one or more of the following exercises at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week can help strengthen your bones. It’s best to do a variety of these exercises to strengthen all of the bones in your body. For example, walking and running will strengthen the bones in your legs, so add on weightlifting to strengthen the bones in your arms.
Smoking is known to cause lung cancer and heart disease, but it can also contribute to a disease that weakens bones, known as osteoporosis. The nicotine in cigarettes restricts blood flow to the bones, and the chemicals slow down the cells that form new bones.
Excessive drinking (more than what’s recommended for men and for women) can impair motor skills, making it more likely that you’ll fall and possibly break a bone. As for moderate drinking, there’s no evidence that it harms (or helps) your bones.
Consuming foods with added sugar (such as soft drinks and processed foods) prevents the body from absorbing calcium, which is a major mineral when it comes to bone health.
As mentioned above, calcium is an important nutrient for building stronger bones. You also need vitamin D to help absorb the calcium— and vitamin K to help filter out any excess calcium your body doesn’t need.
Calcium can be found in dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.), tofu, baked beans, and canned fish with edible bones. Vitamin D can also be found in milk and fatty fish, as well as eggs and pork. As for vitamin K, you can find it in leafy green vegetables.
It’s also a good idea to add more protein into your diet, especially when you’re engaging in more resistance training. Protein supplements like whey protein help with muscle recovery, while others like collagen (the most abundant protein in the body) help muscles, joints, and bones.
Weaker bones obviously increase the risk of fractures and broken bones, but weak bones can cause other problems as well. When our bones are as strong as they’re supposed to be, it can make it harder for us to keep our balance. This increases the risk of falls, which can be problematic for elders in their own homes, during the colder months when the ground is icy, and even in grocery stores, shopping malls, and other properties— even if the fall wasn’t caused by the property owner’s negligence, such as slippery floors or cluttered space.
A healthy lifestyle is the best way to protect your bones. Make sure to incorporate a variety of exercises into your workout routine, stop smoking and drinking excessively/don’t start, limit the number of processed foods you eat, and focus more on nutrient-dense foods— especially those with calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin K. Also remember that your doctor can help you determine the best course of action for you.