You love your bones, so protect them with regular exercise. The right workout moves place stress on your bone tissue, which signals your body to thicken the structure. Not all exercises have this effect, but with some smart planning, you can help you keep your bones fracture-free for life. If you're currently sedentary or you have any medical conditions, see your doctor before beginning a new exercise plan.
Cardio for Bones
For healthy bones, the IDEA Health & Fitness Association says you can't beat weight-bearing aerobic exercises such as walking, running and dancing vigorously. For an activity to qualify, it must cause your bones and muscles to fight gravity; therefore, swimming and cycling won't do your bones much good. You need to exercise consistently to prevent bone loss, so strive for 150 to 300 minutes per week of weight-bearing cardio. Divide this up as your schedule allows, but make each session last at least 10 minutes.
Cardio may be the foundation of your workout, but you'll build even more bone mass if you add two or three days per week of resistance training to your routine. Lifting weights, performing yoga or using your body for resistance with pullups or squats all place ample stress on your bones, encouraging maximum thickness. You'll get the greatest bone-boosting effects with heavier weights, so aim for intensity over repetitions. IDEA notes that one set of lifting a challenging weight is more beneficial than multiple sets with a lower weight.
Your diet is super important for achieving strong bones, and nutrients from foods are preferable to supplements. The University of Illinois Extension advises protecting bones with adequate calorie intake; for most active young women, that means consuming about 2,000 calories daily. Limit sodium to 1,500 milligrams per day, and choose balanced meals that include foods rich in calcium and vitamin D such as low-fat cow's milk, fortified soy milk or orange juice, and dark, leafy greens. Aim for 1,000 milligrams of calcium and 400 IU of vitamin D each day for maximum bone health.
Protecting Your Bones
You may think bone loss doesn't matter when you're young, but you're setting the stage now for lifelong bone density. You build bone mass until your 30s, when the tissue starts to slowly disappear. The more bone you've built through your 20s, the more you have to lose, so to speak -- and if you already have solid bone-building activities built into your lifestyle, you're one step ahead of the game when bone loss increases after menopause. By protecting your bones, you guard against osteoporosis -- which women are more likely to develop -- and could prevent debilitating fractures.
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: Healthy Bones Matter
- IDEA Health & Fitness Association: Build Better Bones
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity do Adults Need?
- University of Illinois Extension: What Is a Bone Healthy Diet?
- FamilyDoctor.org: Nutrition: Determine Your Calorie Needs
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images