Depending on who you are, “bone health” probably means one of two things to you. If you are an elderly person or someone with arthritis, chances are it means painful joints. Otherwise, bone health is most often associated with adequate calcium intake. If this is the case, then you have only scratched the surface of what keeping your bones in optimal shape truly means. Did you know that your bones can actually shrink?
Did you know that ingesting calcium on its own usually isn’t enough. You require other vitamins and minerals to properly absorb it.
If you did not know this, then this primer on good bone health should help tremendously.
Why Should I Care About Good Bone Health?
Bones are literally what gives your body support. Along with joints (which allow for movement) they make up a stable skeletal system that is absolutely necessary for normal function. If not properly maintained, a skeletal system in poor shape can lead to a variety of problems such as osteoporosis, arthritis, and an inability to move with ease.
Yet keeping your bones healthy is just as much about what you do not do as what you do.
Being overweight or obese can lead to a wide variety of problems (diabetes, cancer, heart disease, stroke, and depression among others). When you are overweight, your body may literally put too much stress on your bones and joints. They take significantly more strain in the process of moving you along, and can deteriorate quite rapidly. Try to maintain a healthy weight and normal Body Mass Index to avoid overworking your bones and joints through day to day activities alone.
When astronauts spend long periods in outer space, their bones actually lose density. Part of this is because the lack of gravity leads to far less joint and structural use. Unfortunately, this phenomenon is not reserved for zero gravity atmospheres alone.
If you are leading a sedentary lifestyle, chances are you are losing bone and joint function. Avoiding this does not even require intense or even medium levels of physical exercise; take a walk, play a round of Frisbee, or walk your dog. It will do wonders for your bones and joints.
Another thing that naturally deteriorates your bones and joints is time. As you age, they become less dense on their own (why old people tend to “shrink”). You can fight this by performing resistance or weight bearing exercises. Just as the muscles respond to such exercises by strengthening and growing larger, so too do the bones and joints respond to exercises.
Your diet also plays a crucial role in bone and joint health. Adequate intake of calcium is very important, but so are magnesium, phosphorous and Vitamin D. These can be found in dairy products such as milk, ice cream, yogurt, and cheese as well as whole grains, nuts, seeds, and soy. Water should be consumed to help properly lubricate the joints. Conversely, avoid acidic beverages which can actually leech calcium away from the bones.
If you do nothing to stop it, your bones and joints will naturally grow weaker. Luckily, there are more than a few things which you can do to avoid this process. Make sure that you meet your nutritional requirements and avoid a sedentary lifestyle; it will ultimately pay you back in spades.