You might think of your bones as static, stable structures, but they actually are one of the most dynamic tissues in your body. Your bones are constantly remodeling throughout your life, meaning old bone cells are being absorbed into your bloodstream and new bone cells are being created.
A large part of bone strength is determined by your lifestyle and what you eat, and this is true if you are an adolescent or in your 80s. Building strong bones in childhood is important, but when you approach middle age, you need to keep strong bones to avoid fractures, which can be a major disability in older people. Here are some things that can help:
1. Weight-bearing exercise
Walking, swimming, and biking are great for your overall health and cardiovascular system, but they don’t do much to strengthen your bones.
When your bones receive signals from your body that they have to lift weights, your body is so smart that it increases production of new bone cells, and your bones become stronger.
Weight training at least twice or three times a week is best, but note that if you just do bicep curls, only your arm bones will strengthen, and not your legs and hips. So you need a weight program that works your whole body.
Besides weight training, these activities are also good for your bones: aerobic classes, jogging or running, elliptical machines, hiking up low hills, dancing, soccer, tennis (but you need to work also your non-dominant arm).
Two notes. First, if you have medical issues such as cardiovascular, joint problems or existing osteoporosis, if you are middle age or above, or have been sedentary, check with your doctor to see what is safe for you. Second, a competent trainer is an excellent choice for your health if you can afford it. Second best is to join a gym and tell the teachers there what you want to achieve.
2. Jumping, hopping, skipping
Not just good for children…another signal to your bones that they need to bulk up is when they receive abrupt jarring stresses These sorts of exercises are best if you are younger and/or in excellent health, since these stresses can increase your risk of fracture if you already have weak bones, or to your cardiovascular system.
But if you qualify physically, these activities are great for your bones: aerobics classes that involve jumping up and down steps or boxes, jumping rope, volleyball, aerobic dancing, basketball, stair climbing. Even just hopping in place 10 or 20 hops twice a day is good.
3. Don’t be too thin
Mostly here in Mais Saúde we caution you about being overweight, but regarding bones, people who are below their ideal weight have a higher risk of bone loss and fracture. Those with eating disorders, metabolic disorders which cause weight loss, or who have lost weight after surgery are examples of those at risk. Keeping an ideal weight is good also because you need a little layer of fat to cushion your body when you fall.
4. Avoid too much caffeine
Caffeinated coffee is generally very good for your health, but too much of it can be detrimental to your bones. Caffeine can interfere with calcium absorption, so if you drink more than a couple cups a day, make sure you get extra calcium and vitamin D in your diet!
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