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Build Your Bones

Written by The Midwest Bone and Joint Institute on July 16, 2015

By Ron Krit

Don’t forget to build your bones! Aside from not wanting to look frail, it’s important to have strong bones to prevent injuries. Everyone lists a different age, but the consensus is, in our 30’s bone growth slows down, and if you are not exercising, it’s time to start. The silver lining; weight bearing exercises can help increase bone density! Weak bones might affect the elderly the most, but exercising in your youth and proper nutrition can help lower your risk as you age.

In regard to bone health, not all exercises are created equal. The best movements to increase bone density are strength training and body weight exercises. Even walking can help! Swimming and biking are great exercises, but when it comes to bone growth there needs to be some sort of impact for the exercise to spur the growth. Here is a list of bone building movements:

• Walking, jogging, hiking

• Stair climbing

• Basketball

• Tennis

• Dancing

• Elliptical training

Since the hips are an area where many adults develop thinning of the bone (osteoporosis), the best exercise for that region is squats. The easiest way to practice this move is by sitting in a chair, standing up, and then sitting down again several times. If you experience pain while squatting, consult your doctor for alternatives. I also recommend meeting with a personal trainer to learn correct form. Improper exercise can also lead to bone, joint, and muscle pain.

Another crucial factor that ties into skeletal health is nutrition. According to Dr. Alpert, sports medicine orthopedic surgeon at Midwest Bone and Joint, “The strength of our bones is dependent on an appropriate amount of calcium and vitamin D. Although most of this intake can occur on a daily basis from diet and sunlight, the general recommendations are for 1000-1200 mg of calcium and at least 1000 units of vitamin D per day.”

Certain foods that are rich in calcium are great for our bones, like dairy (like yogurt, milk, and cheese), almonds, leafy greens, and broccoli. Several studies have shown excessive tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine consumption has negative effects on bone health. Vitamin D is added to many foods these days like milk and certain juices. The sun is the best source of vitamin D, but you need to be careful to avoid skin cancer-but getting some sun is healthy. Since we obviously live in a cooler climate, in the wintertime, talk to your doctor about supplementation.

Dr. Alpert also suggested, “For patients who are at high risk to develop osteoporosis, (especially post-menopausal women) ask your doctor about obtaining a dexa scan, a simple quick painless test which can measure bone density and level of osteopenia and osteoporosis.”

It’s not surprising that a healthy lifestyle combined with weight-bearing exercise will strengthen your bones. Before starting a new training regimen, always check with your doctor first. Now go out for a nice walk and follow it up with a kale smoothie. For more information, email me at rkrit@fitwithkrit.com .

Ron Krit is the Manager of Endowment Development for the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago. He is also the owner of Fit With Krit, a health and wellness company specializing in seminars and personal training.