7 Fitness Tips to Improve Bone Strength
Healthy bones are essential to quality of life, body structure, and movement. But, for many Americans, their bones are at risk. According to research, over 53 million people in the US have low bone mass (1). What makes this even more challenging is that weak bones typically don’t have any symptoms. And, until a bone is fractured or broken, it usually goes undetected.
So, it is important that, as health and fitness professionals, we understand how to guide our clients in regard to their bone health so they can continue to move and move well for years to come. We will outline the role of bones, factors that contribute to bone loss, and the many ways to help your clients prevent bone loss.
Role of Bones in the Body
Bones are the framework of our body. Most of us have over 200 of them. Bones provide structural support, allow us to move, protect our organs, are a birthplace for new cells, and store much needed minerals for our bodies.
Structural Support and Movement
Without bones, we would just be a blob of tissues. The intricate design of our bone structure gives our bodies shape and works closely with our muscular system. Bones and muscles are attached at many different points across the body. Bones give the muscles the framework to contract and relax. The two together create human movement.
Protect Our Organs
The three areas of the body that are heavily protected by bone are the back, torso, and skull. The bones of the spine are perfectly designed to wrap around part of the central nervous system. The bones of the ribcage create a barrier of protection for many of our vital organs (heart, lungs, etc.). And, our brain is firmly protected by the bones of the skull.
Create New Cells
Inside the bones, there is a substance called bone marrow. Bone marrow is where red and white blood cells, as well as a few other substances, are made.
House Needed Minerals
Most of the body’s phosphorus and calcium are stored in the bones. The bones release these nutrients as well as a few other minerals when needed. And, the collection of minerals are essential to the bone health and bone strength.
Risk Factors for Bone Loss
Our bones go through quite a bit of change over the span of our lives. The first several years of life through young adulthood our bones grow in size and in density. However, bones typically reach a peak around 20 years of age (2).
So, as we grow older, if we aren’t intentional about strengthening our bones, we will likely see a natural decline in bone health. If we stay on this path, we become at risk for osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a reduction in bones density. The bones become much more porous than usual and are highly susceptible to fractures and breaks.
Other factors that may make you or your clients more susceptible to bone loss:
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Calcium/Vitamin D deficiency
- Women are typically more prone to bone loss then men
- Post-menopausal women
- Overweight (3)
- Thin body frame
- Genetics (1)
7 Fitness Tips for Stronger Bones
Despite those factors, there are ways you can help your clients combat and prevent bone loss.
1. Hit the Weights
Elastic bands, free weights, weight machines, or body weight exercises can all help. One of the best things your clients can do to help increase their bone density is resistance exercise. Bones are much like our muscles, meaning they require challenge and stress to change. So, to get them to change, you have to place the proper stress on them.
2. Weight Bearing Exercise
Contrary to what it sounds like, it’s not weightlifting. It is exercises with the feet on the ground where the body has to challenge gravity throughout the exercise. Brisk walking, hiking, running, and aerobics are all examples weight bearing exercises.
3. Change Up Your Exercise Regimen
The body adapts to physical activity. So, if your client has been spending most of their time with one particular form of exercise, their muscles and bones will adapt to that. If bone density is a concern, they may need to try a new way to move. For example, a consistent walker may want to try transitioning to yoga or another form of low-impact aerobic exercise.
4. Get Enough Calcium
Calcium is one of the most prevalent minerals found within the bones of the body. It plays a key role in bone strength. The recommended amount, according to the FDA, is 1000 mg per day. And, this recommendation goes up for those more at risk for bone loss (women, elderly, etc.). Good sources of calcium are leafy greens, legumes, and dairy products.
However, one thing to keep in mind is that there are a handful of factors that can affect calcium absorption in the body. So, like many other nutrients, just because you are consuming a lot of it, doesn’t mean that body is able to use it efficiently.
5. Consume Enough Calories
Many professionals suggest that anything below 1,200 calories is typically too low. It is challenging to get all the nutrients the body and bones need and calorie restriction over long periods of time decreases bone health (4).
6. Incorporate Balance Exercises
Not only will balance exercises help build the bones, but it will also strengthen the stabilizing muscles that support proper balance. Better balance will result in less falls that could potentially cause bone breaks.
7. Be Patient
Just like many other health and fitness goals, improving bone health and density takes time. So, be patient and be consistent with diet and exercise.
Our bones play significant and essential roles in the body. A variety of risk factors make bone loss a prevalent issue in our society. However, there are lots of ways to combat it. A well-balanced diet and exercise play a huge role in prevention, along with a little patience and consistency.
Want to learn more about the senior population and how you can make a huge impact on their health and quality of life? Check out ISSA’s Senior Fitness Certification and start today!