Our bones play a vital role in every single movement we make, yet many of us pay little attention to them — until something goes wrong.
But actively making an effort to maintain good bone density is important as we age.
“It will prevent diseases like osteoporosis. It will prevent injury. It will help you continue to be physical so you can maintain your physical shape, improve it, lose weight, or if you want to take on more physical activities you can,” said Robert Brace, celebrity trainer and founder of Brace Life Studios, a boutique personal training studio in New York City. “Brittle bones, eventually as you get older, can put a negative strain on your lifestyle and what you are able to do with your body. To move away from pain and injury, you want to have good posture and build up your bone strength.”
Luckily, there are simple things we can do to support our bone health and prevent them from deteriorating with age. These lifestyle practices can help keep your bones in tip-top shape.
Making sure you are incorporating movement into your daily routine is key. This can be low-impact movements like walking, hiking, jogging or climbing stairs, or high-impact movements like playing tennis, dancing or jogging, said Brace. In addition, he recommended these specific exercises:
- Marching in place is a weight-bearing movement that is “an overall great exercise for increasing bone density and strengthening the joints around your hips,” said Brace.
- Straight arm plank (on the floor or against the wall). The “downward pressure through the bones (and) arm and shoulder socket helps stabilize the muscles around the bones,” said Brace.
- Overhead press. “All we are doing is putting your arm over your head and down,” said Brace. “You are using your spine and muscle around the joint that connects to the bone. Giving you some flexibility; some full range of motion.” He recommended performing this exercise with a weight that feels manageable to complete 12-15 repetitions.
“Good posture is critical to good bone health because it allows the bones, tendons and muscles to effectively do their job. Poor posture can create misalignments in the body that can sometimes put excessive strain on bones and tendons that can lead to injury and even exacerbate osteoporosis," said Brace. "It also allows you to appear taller, thinner, more confident and move with more efficiency and grace.”
And if you sit all day, taking posture breaks periodically is key. “If you are working at your computer, this can lead to poor posture and eventually can lead to poor bone health,” said Brace. He says to check in with your body and make sure your lower spine is in a natural position and that your neck is in alignment with the rest of your spine. Make sure "your ear is over your shoulder and over your hip and your feet are evenly on the floor," he added. "You want your elbows perpendicular to the desk … so when you are typing there is no stress in your shoulder or neck.”
What you eat also plays an important role in bone health. Fill your plate with these bone-strengthening nutrients:
- Calcium. Eat “calcium-rich foods to fortify your bone strength and help your bones continue to regenerate ... and slow down the degeneration of your bones. We know that calcium is one of the main components of your bone,” said Brace. “While cheese, yogurt and milk or dairy are people’s go-to for calcium, you can also get calcium from beans or nuts and greens if you are vegan.” Some other calcium-rich foods include: Chia, sesame and poppy seeds, canned fish like salmon with soft edible bones, tofu and oranges.
- Vitamin D. “Vitamin D helps us to absorb calcium. You want that calcium that you are eating to be broken down and used effectively by the body,” said Brace. “Egg yolk is a very good source of vitamin D. If you have a sweet tooth, oranges are my personal favorite.” Other vitamin-D rich foods include: salmon and tuna, mushrooms and tofu.
- Vitamin K. The mineral “helps increase the bone mineral density and has been shown clinically to help people with osteoporosis and reduce fracture rates in older people,” said Brace. “Kale and greens … any dark healthy vegetables, you’re getting that natural vitamin K. It can also be found in meat like chicken and pork chops.” Other vitamin K-rich foods include: green vegetables like kale, collard greens, broccoli, spinach, cabbage and lettuce, avocado, green beans and kiwi.
- Protein. This “increases muscle mass and bone health … and helps increase calcium absorption,” said Brace. Protein-rich foods include: chicken, cottage cheese, lentils, peanut butter, salmon and lean beef.
Get the most bang for your buck by choosing bone-health superfoods: Salmon packs in three of the important nutrients and oranges contain two!