Bones support us, help us move, protect our hearts and brains from injury and store minerals. It’s important to make healthy habits a part of your daily routine to support bone health.
Eating a balanced diet, getting enough physical activity and avoiding bone-risk habits like drinking too much and smoking can all contribute to healthy bones.
1. Eat a Healthy Diet
When it comes to bone health, many nutrients are important—including calcium, vitamin D, protein and minerals such as magnesium and phosphorous. A well-rounded diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds is an excellent way to get these nutrients.
Dairy products—including milk, yogurt and cheese—are top dietary sources of calcium, which helps build and maintain strong bones. Choose low- or nonfat versions if you’re trying to lose weight.
Dark leafy greens are also packed with calcium. Try bok choy, Chinese cabbage, spinach, kale and collard greens. You’ll also find calcium in salmon, tuna and mackerel.
Fruits and vegetables are also good sources of potassium, which helps reduce calcium loss in the urine. A cup of boiled turnip greens has more than 400 milligrams. Dried plums—aka prunes—are another way to get in on the bone-building action. They contain calcium, along with vitamins A and K, and help slow bone thinning in older adults.
2. Get Regular Exercise
In addition to eating a healthy diet, regular exercise is also essential for maintaining strong bones. Minerals like calcium and vitamin D are incorporated into bone during childhood, adolescence and early adulthood and help prevent fractures by strengthening bones as we age.
Calcium and vitamin D can be found in many different foods, including dairy (like low-fat milk and yogurt), leafy greens, fortified cereals and almonds. Other nutrients that are important for bone health include potassium, magnesium, vitamin C and protein.
Getting enough exercise can help improve balance and strength, which reduces the risk of falls that may lead to broken bones. Exercise that is weight-bearing or resistance training helps strengthen bones and muscles. Walking, jogging, dancing and tennis are good examples of these types of exercises. It is best to work with a physical therapist or personal trainer if you are new to exercise to develop an appropriate program. Ideally, exercise should include a mix of weight-bearing impact exercises and aerobic and muscle-building activities.
3. Get Enough Sleep
Insufficient sleep can contribute to poor bone health. This is because our body’s circadian rhythms regulate many biological processes that are important to bone health including calcium metabolism, hormone production and bone development/regeneration.
Research suggests that adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night to promote good health, including bone health. Try to get on a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same times each day, especially weekends. Turn off all electronic devices an hour before you go to bed (the blue glow from your phones, tablets and computers disrupts melatonin secretion) and try to get outside or read a book for a few minutes to wind down. Drinking a cup of warm, relaxing bone broth before bed may also help you get to sleep easier.
Strong bones are important to our overall health and help us live our lives to the fullest. By practicing healthy habits like getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet and staying physically active, we can strengthen our bones, prevent fractures and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
4. Reduce Stress
Bones are living tissue that’s constantly working to keep you healthy. They provide a framework that supports the body and protects organs, store important minerals like calcium and phosphorous, and produce new blood cells within bone marrow (KOL-uh-mahr).
Eating a well-balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D is key to healthy bones. Make sure you’re getting at least three servings of low-fat dairy a day, plus leafy green vegetables and some nuts. It’s also a good idea to talk to your doctor or dietitian about calcium and vitamin D supplements.
Weight-bearing exercise is another healthy habit that can help build strong bones. These workouts, like walking, jogging, running, and climbing stairs, cause your body to work against gravity, which helps strengthen bones and slow bone loss. You can also incorporate strength training, such as squats, lunges, calf raises, and jumping rope, into your workouts to increase bone health. Avoiding excessive alcohol and smoking is also important for bone health, as both can damage the bones.