Have you had your bone density tested? If not, this article may make you reconsider. The density of our bones impacts our overall health and well-being, no matter what our age may be.
In our younger years, increasing our bone density can improve athletic performance and maintain optimal health. If you’re older, improving your bone mass can help keep your bones strong and help prevent injury.
But is there anything you can do about it? The answer is a resounding yes. We’d like to walk you through a few exercises for bone density that you can do to improve your bone mass, as well as some extra tips to keep your bones as strong as possible.
What Is Bone Density and Why Is It Important?
Bone density is critical for everyone, from youth through adulthood and into old age. As our bodies age, there is a slow degradation of bone mass (especially after 50).
Other factors, like smoking, menopause, the long-term use of certain medications, and your diet, can further speed up that bone loss.
Essentially, your bone density measures how much of the essential bone minerals (like calcium) are present in your bone tissue. You can find out this value by having your medical provider order a bone density scan.
But what happens if you have a bone density scan and find out that your bone density is lower than it should be?
Low bone density is also known as osteopenia. While many people consider it the precursor to osteoporosis, it can also be stopped or even reversed before that happens.
However, the lower your bone mass is, the more at risk you are for not only developing osteoporosis but also experiencing a fracture.
If left untreated, low bone density will usually progress into osteoporosis. In addition to the severity of bone loss, osteoporosis is also a bone-thinning disease.
Eventually, the minerals in your bones become so thin that they start to become incredibly fragile and brittle. Often, the condition has tell-tale physical signs and symptoms, including a stooped posture, back pain, and a noticeable loss of height.
Bone Density Workouts
So, what can you do to increase your bone mass and develop stronger bones? The first step is creating an exercise routine that can help promote the growth of new bone cells. Here are a few suggestions for ways your physical activity can work to help support optimal bone health.
Strength and Resistance Training
Strength and resistance training is crucial to developing a high bone mass. Strength-training exercises, like weight lifting, help by engaging your muscles. When your muscles flex as you use them, they also pull on your bones.
The result of this pressure is an increase in new bone growth.
However, you do not have to lift weights to experience these benefits. While free weights and weight machines are a great option, even resistance bands and exercises that use just your own body weight can help improve your bone density.
Running (or jogging) and other similar forms of cardiovascular exercise support healthy bone density through repeated impact. They do not have to be high-impact exercises to be beneficial, either.
Even just the regular impact of your feet hitting the ground encourages bone growth through a similar action to weight lifting. You can get much of the same bone growth with low-impact exercises like walking, so if your joints can’t handle high-impact activities like running, walking is a good substitute that can still give you some bone benefit.
As we mentioned, you do not have to follow a strict weightlifting program or run marathons to boost your bone density. A regular yoga practice can also be incredibly beneficial.
While yoga does not increase your bone density in the same way or as much as those other forms of exercise, it does have a unique benefit. When you practice yoga or pilates, you also help to improve your flexibility and balance.
Special Considerations For Athletes
Being able to reach optimal health is critical for athletes of all varieties.
However, as fun as sports are, they do put the bones of most athletes under constant pressure and stress. To help counteract an increased risk of injury, athletes should maintain their bone density and support their joints as much as they can.
Luckily, recreational sports are also a fantastic way to help strengthen your bones and support your health. Take tennis, for example. When you play tennis, it requires the constant swinging of the racket to hit the ball. This motion engages your core and builds arm strength while your legs also get a workout. Soccer and basketball are similarly beneficial and have the same characteristics of exercise that are known to help build bone mass.
For those with weak knees that are susceptible to pain, you do not have to let that stop you from being physically active.
Finding low-impact exercises for bone density that help you stay active, like swimming, paired with managing your pain appropriately, can help you keep your entire body as healthy as possible.
Other Ways To Support Bone Health
While developing a supportive exercise program is essential for increasing your bone mass, it is not the only way to support your bone health. Paying attention to specific components of your diet can also be beneficial.
It is no secret that calcium and bone health go hand in hand. Without calcium, your body does not have what it needs to create and maintain strong, healthy bones. One thousandmilligrams of calcium per day is the baseline requirement that health professionals recommend. Examples of calcium-rich foods include green leafy vegetables, yogurt, and fortified cereals.
The other nutritional component of bone health is vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine” vitamin. The body uses Vitamin D for many different bodily systems, from the brain to the GI tract. Vitamin D also helps calcium be more readily absorbed in the body.
Unfortunately, many people are deficient in vitamin D, especially during the winter months when we get less direct sunlight. As a bare minimum, you need at least 600 international units (IUs) of vitamin D per day until age 70. After that, nutritionists recommend increasing your intake to 800 IU to keep your bones as strong as possible. Some doctors recommend a far higher dosage of vitamin D–as much as 4,000 IU or higher–for optimal health.
Avoid Alcohol and Tobacco
In addition to focusing on your calcium and vitamin D intake, you will also want to stop (or, at least, cut back significantly) your alcohol and tobacco use. Both of these substances can negatively affect your whole body, including your bones.
The health of your bones is essential for living a long and healthy life. Looking out for your bone health by performing exercises for bone density and maintaining a nutritious diet is beneficial no matter your age. Starting now gives you the best opportunity to set yourself up with a high peak bone mass that can last for years to come.
Healthy Directions has all the tips, tricks, and supplements you need to live your best life today. You can count on our experts for all the answers to your health-related questions.