Get Off The Couch
This article on bones.nih.gov (literally the word bones followed by the National Institute of Health, followed by .gov, so you know they know what they’re talking about) gives a great breakdown of what kind of exercise is good for your bones, as well as why. Essentially, bone is living tissue that responds to exercise stimulus by becoming stronger (like muscle). In addition, developing your muscles and coordination will also help prevent falls which will in turn help prevent fractures.
The best exercises for your bones are those that are classified as weight-bearing (where you work against gravity) or resistance training (trains muscles against external forces following the principles of progressive overload). Examples of weight-bearing exercise include climbing stairs, jogging, and dancing, and resistance training is often associated with the use of weights but can also come in the form of resistance bands or your own body weight.
As much as we all wish a margarita or three were good for our health…they’re not. In excess, alcohol is some WHISKEY business. Ha. Get it? Anyway, heavy alcohol consumption interferes with the body’s ability to absorb and regulate calcium, produce vitamin D, and regulate hormones, all of which are crucial to healthy bones. Not to mention, cortisol (which decreases bone formation and increases bone breakdown) is also elevated in people who regularly engage in heavy drinking. Of course…let’s not forget how often you fall when you’re drunk. Broken bones and hungover the next morning? Pass.
Smoking is also a known (and major) risk factor for developing osteoporosis, as demonstrated by this research reviewshows, even if the exact contributing mechanisms are not yet understood.
Eat Your Vegetables, Honey
Yeah. Our moms were right, and so was Popeye. No, not Popeye’s chicken, geez. A healthy diet is a HUGE factor in keeping (and building) healthy bones. Protein is the building block of muscle, much like calcium is the building block of bones. Clearly, both are important. However, research shows that a low protein intake also inhibits calcium absorption and may negatively affect bone formation and breakdown, so don’t neglect either!
As far as vitamins go, this article by americanbonehealth.org details some vitamins that are crucial; vitamins A, B12, C, K, and D. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, vitamin K plays a role in bone formation, vitamin C is essential for the formation of collagen (the foundation that bone mineralization is built on), and vitamin b12 plays a not so well understood role in bone building cells, as established by this Tufts study.
All in all, it’s hard to keep track of the interconnected roles various vitamins and minerals play in your body, so your best bet is to follow the age-old adage of “eating your rainbow”. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables (and a variety of them), and build your meals around protein and vegetables for a great start to covering your nutritional bases.
Avoid Extreme Diets
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look and feel better, and losing weight can be good for your health. To be clear, you want to lose FAT not just weight, which means you want to diet in a sustainable way. Not just for your mental health (extreme diets usually end at the bottom of an ice cream tub you just inhaled in one sitting when you couldn’t take it anymore), but for your physical health as well. Extreme (as in very low calorie) diets can lead to weight loss that doesn’t come from just fat but also muscle (you want more of this, NOT less), and apparently…a loss in bone density.
There are several studies that back this up. For instance, this study looked at obese women that were on a sub 1000 calorie diet AND were performing resistance training, which typically helps retain and build muscle mass as well as improve and maintain bone density. The results? They still experienced a significant loss in bone density and mineral content. An obese individual is a body who is technically primed to lose fat, but even these individuals lost more than fat in the study.
Instead of opting for short term extreme diets-that typically end in you gaining the weight back anyway-opt for slower longer term weight loss. Your body and mind will thank you in the long run.
The moral of the story; building and maintaining healthy bones is not complicated. In fact, it’s pretty much the same as keeping your body healthy in every other sense of the word. Eat right, eat enough, do enough exercise and a variety of it, and limit your vices. I’m not here to tell you it’s easy, but it is simple. Future you will be grateful you took care of your body when you’re old and shriveled and surrounded by loved ones thanking your lucky stars for all you’ve lived to experience. ❤
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