To state a very obvious point, your bones need to last you a lifetime! So, trying to maintain their health is vital to enjoying a long, and active life.
The thing is, it pays to start early.
Research shows the more work you put in before you hit 30 years of age, the better condition your bones will be in as you get older.
The good news is, however, it’s never too late to start trying to improve the health of your bones.
And, even if you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis, you can still make simple lifestyle changes to help slow the progression of the disease.
How to Build Stronger Bones
1. Exercise for Bone Health
Your bones are living tissue, which react to weight-bearing exercise. This makes your existing bones and muscles stronger.
However, you don’t need to spend hours at the gym pumping iron — weight-bearing exercise includes any type of activity where you are supporting the weight of your own body.
Types of weight-bearing exercise, include:
- Walking – just make it brisk.
- Running or jogging.
- Pilates and Yoga.
- Step aerobics.
2. Diet for Bone Health
A diet rich in calcium is important for bone health — ideally this should start in childhood, and continue throughout your life.
Your body is removing and replacing calcium all the time, which means you need to have a good supply of calcium in your diet to prevent your bones becoming brittle.
If you are a yo-you dieter, or you follow a very strict diet which excludes whole food groups, this may be detrimental to the long-term health of your bones.
Calcium can be found in a wide range of foods (not just dairy), including:
- Milk, yoghurt and cheese.
- Calcium-fortified soy milk.
- Soy beans.
- Leafy green vegetables, especially the darker varieties like broccoli, spinach, cabbage, kale and pak choy.
- Fish (with bones) such as sardines.
- Foods that have been fortified with calcium such as bread, breakfast cereals, orange juice and tofu.
Vitamin D is also vitally important. Without it, your body cannot absorb the calcium in your diet to build strong bones.
So, make sure you are eating oily fish (mackerel, sardines, salmon) and eggs regularly. Other sources of vitamin D include fortified milk, margarine, and breakfast cereals.
Short periods in the sun are also extremely important. You should try to get some sun exposure for around 10 to 15 minutes per day. However, the amount of vitamin D produced will depend on the intensity of the UVB, and other factors, such as your skin color, and where you live in the world.
If you live in a northern climate, as I do, the sunlight will be too weak during parts of the year to make any vitamin D. During these times you may want to consider taking a vitamin D supplement (speak to your doctor to find out if that is necessary for you personally).
3. What to Avoid For Bone Health
As you know, packaged food and ready meal’s are very high in salt content, and these types of foods are the main source of salt in western diets.
However, if you’ve been following Diet Rebel for any length of time, I imagine you are already avoiding all those unhealthy pre-packaged foods, and are preparing healthy, fresh food, whenever you possibly can 😉
This is the best way to avoid taking in too much salt.
Also, not all salt is created equal — read my thoughts on this here.
There has been some suggestion that caffeinated drinks also increase the calcium lost in urine. Other studies have, however, indicated tea may have a beneficial effect.
Despite the contradictions, it seems that drinking up to 3 caffeinated drinks per day is safe.
If you are drinking soft drinks regularly, be aware that this may also be affecting your bone health. Whether this is related to the caffeine, or the phosphoric acid, the best thing you can do to improve your health overall, is give up the soda habit completely.