As we age, our bones can weaken, and it becomes harder to maintain a strong, healthy structure without keen attention to our lifestyle choices. Protecting our bodies is so important for our longterm health and wellbeing, as weakened bones can lead to serious conditions, such as osteoporosis, fractures, injuries and falls.
As a certified health coach, I work with clients on building their bone density and strength in order to feel more apt to handle life's physical tasks, stay safe from injury, embark upon new exercise undertakings, and feel healthier and more energized on a daily basis. Having a toughness that can overcome health conditions and boost longevity is essential, and so taking the necessary steps towards training, growth and repair can make a huge difference. We only have one body, and we must give it the respect and love it deserves. By hitting the gym and working on strengthening exercises, eating a diet full of whole foods and nutrients and maintaining a proper sleep schedule, we can help fortify our bones. We should also be mindful of poor habits that can be hurting our bone health. Here are thirteen things that can be weakening our bones and how to deal.
1. Not Strength Training
A common cause of weak bones is "not doing strength training and load bearing exercise," advises personal trainer and running coach Susie Lemmer over email with Bustle. "When you strength train and 'load' your body, you are triggering a break down of the tissue, which includes bones. But as a reaction to that breakdown, the bone remodels and increases strength," she continues. Make sure to alternate between the strength training and cardio room, or find a class that combines both.
"Smoking has a systematic effect that can cause destruction of many structures including the bones," says physical therapist and yoga teacher Dr. Rebecca Blanchard, DPT, RYT, over email with Bustle. "It does this by both production of free radicals and through upsetting the hormonal balance in the body which is required for proper bone health," she adds.
3. Eating Too Few Calories
"When we don't provide the body with proper nutrition, at the very least, enough calories, the bones become compromised," says Blanchard. "The body is concerned with meeting it's most essential needs, like keeping the heart pumping so the body has to 'steal' nutrients away from the bones and other less vital areas to keep itself going. Over the long term, this leads to weaker bones," she explains.
4. You Eat Too Many Acidic Foods
"Keeping a diet that maintains an alkaline environment in the body is ideal for promoting strong bones. When we eat foods that create an acidic condition, the body must use elements like calcium to buffer the system to regain the alkaline state," says Blanchard. "Foods that typically create the most acidic environment include meat, dairy, sugar, and anything processed. To maintain an alkaline system, a plant-based diet with plenty of dark green vegetables, healthy oils (olive, coconut, and flaxseed), nuts and beans is recommended," she advises.
5. You're Not Eating Vital Nutrients
The body needs calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D, especially, to build and strengthen bones, as well as other nutrients, such as zinc, magnesium and iron. Getting enough of these nutrients is key. "Vitamin D is critical for the proper absorption of calcium and phosphorus which help create strong bones," says Blanchard. Look for dairy, nuts, soy, legumes and beans, leafy greens, oily fish and lean meats to fulfill intake. Also, don't eat calcium-rich foods with iron-heavy ones, as the absorption might become blocked.
6. You're Not Doing Weight Bearing Exercises
"Weight-bearing exercise is the best choice for bone health and includes: walking, running, lifting weights, kick boxing, and yoga," says Blanchard. Also, keeping variety can help prevent overuse injuries and will lead to greater strengthening results, as well. "Functional movements such as full-body, powerful movements, specifically weight training are the best for strengthening bones," adds Denise Thomas, Reebok CrossFit Coach, over email with Bustle.
7. You're Exercising Too Much
Too much exercise, or overtraining syndrome, can lead to lower bone density and loss over time. The "drop in estrogen causes more bone breakdown compared to bone building, thereby, leading to weakness over time," says Blanchard. This will also put you at greater risk of osteoporosis and injury. Look for the signs of overtraining to determine whether you are pushing yourself too far and could be upping your risk of injury down the road.
8. Old Age
Old age is a factor in weakening bones, says Thomas. As you age, your muscles and bones begin to break down and thin out, which ups your risk of osteoporosis, falls, and fractures. Unfortunately, as we age, physical mobility becomes more impaired, and we need to be more mindful of strength training and building our bone density as much as possible.
9. Your Genetics
Osteoporosis, which determines a low bone density and progressive weakening of the bones, is highly genetic, so you should check to see if the disease runs in your family, as it can put you at higher risk. If so, make sure to get a jumpstart on precautionary measures and stick with a healthy lifestyle with strength training, weight bearing exercises and a diet filled with bone-boosting nutrients.
10. Inadequate Protein Intake
"Proper protein intake helps to build and maintain strong bones, plus, those that get enough potassium have healthy bones and well-developed muscles to support an active lifestyle," says Alicia Ward, VP of Marketing at Beanitos, over email with Bustle. Great sources include beans and legumes, lean proteins, nuts, and eggs. Plant proteins also reduce inflammation. "Incorporating more plant based proteins such as pea protein into your diet can help to reduce inflammation and stress, heighten energy levels and promote bone health," Andre Kroecher, co-founder of Daiya Foods, over email with Bustle.
11. Not Eating Enough Fruits & Vegetables
Research shows the benefits of consuming fruits and vegetables for bone health, as they are filled with proper nutrients to keep bones strong and healthy and the body less inflamed and more alkaline. Eating fruits, such as apples and coconuts, can "help improve calcium and magnesium absorption into the body, which is extremely beneficial for bone health," says Dana Cohen, director of marketing at Bare Snacks, over email with Bustle, in order to lower risk of osteoporosis.
12. Having Too Much Caffeine
Caffeine, found in coffee and many teas, in excess, can strip the body of its calcium stores. Having enough calcium in the body is so important for bone health, and so it's important to limit caffeine use to prevent thinning and loss. Once the afternoon or early evening hits, swap your coffee or tea for plain water instead or try an herbal or low-caffeinated tea instead.
13. You're Too Stressed
Experts say that cortisol, which results from added stress, can cause our bones to weaken and our bodies to become inflamed. Thus, it is important to eat well, exercise, set aside time for fun activities and self-care practices, and get enough sleep in order to manage stress. If there is chronically too much cortisol being produced in the body, it will lead to lower bone density over time.
Eating the right nutrients to fuel your body, as well as fitting in adequate sleep and exercise, will help strengthen bones, build bone density and reduce the signs of aging. Thinning bones can be dangerous, as they can lead to more injuries, falls and lack of physical performance, and so it's important to take note of the triggers that can weaken bones and to figure out ways to keep yourself safe.
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