Bone density is such an important part of your health. Typically, your bone mass grows the most throughout your childhood, and then continues into your teens and twenties. By the time you hit your thirties, your bone mass is at its maximum. So how do we maximize this bone health? Keep reading to learn two simple steps to maximize your bone density, no matter your age (such as eating broccoli and using a desk bike).
The importance of healthy bone density.
Our bones build the framework for our entire body. They protect vital organs and allow movement (via muscular interaction). The bones even help keep the body’s levels of calcium balanced for optimized cellular function. When the entire bone matrix loses its density and overall strength, it can lead to poor muscle, low energy, and risk of pathological fractures and organ damage. Ultimately, low bone mass leads to a lower quality of life.
Start thinking about your bone health with your daily routine.
For those of us that weren’t nice to our bodies in our younger years, the realization that our bone health is important can be scary (especially as we age). Luckily, there are many simple ways to build and maintain the bone mass you do have. This will prevent complications later. This is super important since something like a fracture can rapidly decrease your life expectancy. It doesn’t have to be complicated; it just takes a little awareness and habit building.
Eat nutrient dense foods.
The most obvious nutrient dense foods that should come to mind are vegetables. Many vitamins, minerals, and nutrients found in vegetables and fruits are needed for bone health. Vegetables like broccoli, kale, and cabbage are packed with calcium. Other important nutrients for bone health are vitamin C via sweet potatoes, bell peppers, kale, broccoli, strawberries, and many more, and vitamin D via fish, eggs, cheese, mushrooms, sunshine, and supplements. The body can only absorb so much calcium at a time so make sure to break it up throughout the day. Lastly, make sure you eat enough calories. Otherwise, the body may take calcium from the bones for other more vital bodily functions.
Other nutrients (and examples of food) needed for bone health include:
- Vitamin K. Broccoli, spinach, kale, and soy.
- Magnesium. Beans, seeds, whole grains, avocado, and tofu.
- Zinc. Meat, beans, seeds, nuts, and whole grains.
- Omega-3s: Chia seeds, fish, olive oil, flax, and walnuts.
- Protein. Low protein diets affect both muscle and bone mass. It has been shown to decrease the body’s ability to absorb calcium (what our bones are made of!). Add sustainable meats, nuts, seeds, beans, dairy and some vegetables (spinach, asparagus, and broccoli). If you are having trouble getting enough, consider protein shakes too.
- Collagen. Supplements, leafy greens, bone broth, and meat.
Use your muscles and stress your bones.
Strength training and weight bearing activities keep the bone building circuit in balance. Lack of use of the muscles and bones can inadvertently lead to breakdown of bones, leading to problems like osteopenia and osteoporosis (low bone density). Hit the gym and follow an equipment circuit, grab the dumbbells and follow a poster, come up with your own moves, or look up a YouTube channel for lifting. Simple weight bearing exercises include standing and walking. If you usually spend a lot of time sitting at a computer or the TV, consider investing in a standing desk or desk bike to multitask with exponential health benefits.
Make an effort to incorporate each of these activities into your weekly schedule.
- Strength training. Go for 2-3 times per week, addressing all major muscle groups.
- Weight bearing. Walking, running, jumping, dancing or any other movement on your feet. Again, try for 2-3 times per week. Bonus health points for getting the heart rate up and sweat pouring!
- Balance. Challenge your balance 1-2 times per week with yoga or incorporating single leg moves into your exercise and strength routine.
- Daily consistent movement. You should be getting out of your seat and moving as much as possible. Every. Single. Day. Period. In the face of a typical sedentary lifestyle, easy hacks include standing desks, frequent breaks from sitting, or a desk bike.
- These will ultimately help maintain a healthy weight and bone mass. Being over or underweight increases the chance of having problems with bone density.
Bone health for every stage of life.
There isn’t a time in your life when bone health isn’t important. It is simply yet another reason for making proper diet and exercise a part of your normal routine (to maximize a healthy lifestyle). Let all this information inspire you to be your best. Don’t feel overwhelmed, start simply by adding a few nutrient dense foods (broccoli and kale, anyone?) and getting moving any way possible. The simplest way to start moving is incorporating it into your normal everyday routine with standing desks, desk bikes, walking, and more. Don’t let poor health choices catch up to you later in life. If you develop low density bones, it will severely affect your quality of life and lifespan.