Bone Health for Women: How to Build Strong Bones
To live a long, healthy life, it’s critical to build strong bones.
Every day in my personal training and nutrition coaching practice I help women get stronger and meet their health and fitness goals through improved nutrition and exercise.
As a female athlete, mom, and fitness professional I want to help my clients live their best lives through what I have learned over my many years performing and coaching other women.
Most women walk into a gym because they want to lose weight or change their body composition, but what they often don’t realize until they are entrenched in the process of getting healthier, is that training benefits far outreach just our outer appearances.
For women, this has an even greater implication in the form of bone health, because as we age we have a greater chance of getting osteoporosis, which is a loss in bone density. Bone density is a measurement of the amount of calcium and other minerals found in your bones.
Both osteopenia (low bone mass) and osteoporosis (brittle bones) are conditions characterized by low bone density.
In addition to normal aging changes, women are more at risk because we have smaller bones than men and lose bone faster because of hormone changes that happen after menopause.
Through training and proper nutrition, we can help slow and in some cases even counteract these changes that occur in our bones for improved health, quality of life, and longevity.
The Benefits Of Having Strong Bones
The sooner a woman starts to add these nutrition and training strategies in her life, the better. The sooner, the better for building and maintaining habits and routines that lead to lifelong bone health.
By the time we have reached our 20th birthday most of us have reached our bone density peak.
With this in mind, there is no time to waste in building a healthy routine. Having healthy bones will lead to less risk of breaks, and injury as we age. But more simply, bones play many important roles in our bodies. These roles include: providing structure, protecting organs, anchoring muscles, storing calcium, providing movement, and more.
With these functions in mind, it’s more than a little important to build and maintain one of your body’s more important structural aspects.
If our bodies are our homes, then it’s pretty important to have a solid structure to build on. Your bones are your literal foundation, to a healthy strong body, no matter what your goals are.
Use these tips to build strong bones:
Tip #1: Perform Weight-Bearing Exercises And Strength Train To Build Strong Bones
If you take one thing away from this article today, it should be that studies have shown that both weightlifting and strength training help promote new bone growth and maintain the existing bone.
Not only does strength training have a myriad of other benefits including that heart-shaped booty you always wanted, but it can also help you build and keep your bones and body strong well into your golden years.
In this well-studied area of the body, it has been shown that weight-bearing exercise benefits include: increased bone mineral density, increased bone size, reduced inflammation, increased muscle mass, and protection against bone loss.
What is weight-bearing exercise? Weight-bearing exercises force you to work against gravity. That can mean many types of movement and exercises, anything where you have to move your own body weight and/or additional weight against gravity.
Because studies show that different types of exercise may be better at creating bone density in different parts of the body it is best to vary your exercise type.
Tip #2: Eat Enough Protein
Not only does protein consumption have the benefits of helping you build and recover muscle it plays a key role in calcium absorption in the body, and as you read above, calcium plays a role in your bone health and density.
A study involving about 144,000 postmenopausal participants found that those who ate an increased amount of protein saw a boost in overall bone density. Collectively, the participants who ate more protein also experienced fewer fractures.
To ensure you are consuming enough protein in your diet there are several strategies you can use. Take a good look at your overall protein consumption. Start by understanding what foods include protein, determining how much protein you consume, and how much you may need to add.
Tip #3: Maintain Healthy Weight
Each of us is a unique individual with unique health needs. No two bodies are exactly alike. A healthy weight may look different on each person but what applies to all humans is the fact that avoiding yo-yo-ing and fad diets can be beneficial in your journey towards overall health as well as a boon to your bone density.
Studies found that rapid weight loss and cycling between gaining and losing can be a risk factor in bone density loss because a person losing weight on these quick-fix diets does not create sustainable habit change and often re-gains their original weight or even more.
When the initial quick loss happens, often bone density is lost because healthy practices in nutrition and training are not employed.
When the person’s weight returns or is exceeded these weight-related bone density losses are not regained, leaving a person with a higher body fat percentage to carry the same or more weight on a less strong structure. You can imagine the implications of that.
Like all things with the human body, we really thrive with healthy sustainable change, that allows our bodies time to catch up to metabolic and structural needs that change with body recomposition (muscle building and fat loss).
These types of changes may take time but they are more likely to stick and become a lifestyle for a lifetime of healthy living.
Tip #4: Eat Your Veggies To Build Strong Bones
Eating a vegetable dense diet may help you maintain a healthy weight because vegetables are low in calories. They also provide vitamins, minerals, and fiber that have been shown to be a benefit to our bones.
Eating yellow and green vegetables, in particular, have been shown to promote bone growth in children and help maintain bone density in adults.
One study showed that vitamin C may help protect bones from damage, while another study showed participants who ate cabbage, broccoli, and other herbs and vegetables for three months were able to maintain bone density and experience less bone turnover. Researchers have attributed the results to the boost in polyphenols and potassium that the vegetables provided.
So, there is a double benefit to women who are often the meal makers in the home, we can maintain our own bone density through eating plentiful vegetables while we also help our families, and friends, grow and be healthy, too!
Tip #5: Eat Enough Calcium
Protein may be essential to calcium absorption but you have to get the calcium in too!
Some dietary sources rich in calcium include; leafy greens like kale, beans, sardines, reduced-fat or nonfat dairy products, tofu, sesame, and tahini.
The best way to consume calcium is in small amounts throughout the day, rather than in one sitting. So, eating a variety of foods is your best bet for consistent calcium consumption.
Tip #6: Vitamins and Minerals Matter
Here we are talking about vegetables again!
As mentioned above, vegetables are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals. Some of the most important vitamins and minerals for bone health include Vitamin D and K as well as the minerals magnesium and zinc.
Playing an essential role in bone health, Vitamin K reduces calcium loss and helping minerals bind to the bones.
Vitamin K-rich foods include green leafy vegetables, such as kale, spinach, turnip greens, collards, Swiss chard, mustard greens, parsley, romaine, green leaf lettuce, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.
Some surprising choices include ..fermented foods like sauerkraut and cheese.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. People with vitamin D deficiencies have a higher risk of losing bone mass. Your body can’t build strong bones without Vitamin D regardless of the volume of calcium you consume.
A person can absorb vitamin D through moderate sun exposure or from food like fatty fish, like tuna, mackerel, and salmon, or egg yolks. Other options include fortified foods, liver, and cheese.
Magnesium and Zinc
Magnesium plays a key role in converting vitamin D into the active form that promotes calcium absorption.
Some great dietary sources of magnesium include dark chocolate, avocados, legumes, tofu, nuts, seeds, whole grains, some fatty fish, bananas, and those leafy greens again!
You need trace amounts of zinc in your diet and it helps make up the mineral portion of your bones. Zinc also promotes the formation of bone-building cells and prevents the excessive breakdown of bone. Good sources of zinc include beef, shrimp, spinach, flaxseeds, oysters, and pumpkin seeds.
Tip #7: Live A Healthy Lifestyle
Risk factors for low bone density include smoking, drinking and being sedentary. The more you can limit these unhealthy lifestyle choices, the better.
Tip #8: Prevent Falls By Strengthening Your Core
Most people would say, tidy up the home, and make sure there are no hazards present like those pesky Legos your kids leave lying around.
While I agree with this, as the exercise advocate, I am going to bring this back around to your training!
Once you have established a safe and skill-appropriate strength training regimen, it is valuable to also strengthen your balance and your core to prevent slip, trips, and falls.
You can do this through specific unilateral balance work. That includes work like any single-sided variation of exercise. Or, even just standing on one leg and then the other for time. And, it includes core training.
If your skeleton is your structure, your spine is the main support beam. Your core – including your abdominals, obliques and back extensors – supports that main support beam. A strong and stable core will make all movement more stable as well. The reason being, it supports your balance and agility to avoid slips, trips, and falls.
Open your LadyBoss® Pocket Personal Trainer and check out those abs exercises. Safely and effectively using these exercises can lead you to a strong and healthy core.
Tip #9: Consume Foods High in Omega-3 Fats
Omega-3 fatty acids are often known for their anti-inflammatory effects. But, they have also been shown to help protect against bone density loss.
In other words, once you build strong bones, protect them with Omega-3 fatty acids.
Some awesome dietary sources of Omega-3s include chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts, plus some fatty fish.
Tip #10: Talk To Your Doctor
Bone density should be on the radar of all women, especially as we age.
Use these strategies and techniques. But, always remember a coach or trainer can help you stay accountable and safe. A coach can guid you in a new strength training routine or your healthy nutrition habits. Only your health care provider should prescribe you supplement vitamins or minerals. Likewise, your provider can help you decide if an increase in protein or other vitamin or mineral is right for you.
Your coach or trainer can work alongside your healthcare provider as part of a team. Your team should guarantee you have the best plan for maintaining and/or building bone density.
Build Your Bones
Every woman can benefit from including weight-bearing resistance training into her life. That means calisthenics, traditional weight or strength training, running, or a combination. Choose the exercises that best meet your preferences and needs.
After all, the best exercises are the ones you will actually do. So, focus on building a solid and consistent exercise routine.
And weight bearing resistance training builds strong bones.
The same reasonable mentality can go for your nutrition. Consuming a variety of colorful and nutrient-dense foods and lots of vegetables will serve most needs for vitamins and minerals.
If you have any concerns regarding your bone density or health, call your doctor. Or, you are considering taking up a new nutrition or exercise routine, call your doctor.
Always consult your doctor and make sure exercise and nutrition decisions are safe and appropriate for you.