Bone up on bone health

by Andrea Mooney on October 19, 2012

Today is World Pediatric Bone and Joint Day, so it’s time to bone up on bone health. Though we’ve all heard the basics of why kids should drink milk and build strong bones, this day serves as a reminder of why it’s so important.

Though osteoporosis (a disease that causes bone loss and makes bones fragile and breakable) usually appears in adults, bone is living, growing tissue, so building strong bones throughout childhood can help kids stay strong through adulthood, and help prevent osteoporosis. Kids’ bones begin to mature in the late teen years, so the sooner they start building a strong skeleton, the longer it will stay with them. We know on average women have lower bone mass than men, which makes good dietary and exercise habits early in life very important for young girls and teens.

Luckily, building healthy bones early on all boils down to two steps: eating a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, and adding weight-bearing exercise to our routines. Here are a few ways to bone up on bone health, and add healthy habits to your daily life.

 

Bone-healthy diet

Not getting enough calcium during childhood can account for 5 to 10 percent lower bone mass and an increased risk for bone fractures later in life. Making sure your child’s diet is rich in calcium, as well as magnesium, zinc and vitamin D, will set them up for success.

Easy ways to add more calcium:
Add milk to cereal and oatmeal

Eat fruit with yogurt for a calcium-rich dip

Add cheese to sandwichesInclude broccoli or beans in meals

Make a fruit smoothie with milk or yogurt

Pack string cheese with lunch

Eat salads with dark green, leafy vegetables like lettuce, spinach, kale and broccoli

Top salads and soups shredded cheese

Choose calcium fortified orange juice

For more great tips on how to build strong bones with a healthy diet, see our bone health guide.

 

Physical activity

Like muscles, bones get stronger when we use them. Weight-bearing exercise, like walking, running, hiking and dancing can help improve bone mineral density (strengthen your bones) and help reduce risk of fracture.

Physical activity: A little goes a long way
Lift cans of soup while watching TV

Turn on music and dance!

Take the stairs

Do a few push-ups a day, and add more over time

Go for walks with friends

 

What’s the difference between weight-bearing exercise and other exercise?

Weight-bearing exercises have a higher impact on your bones—using dumbbells, fitness machines or even your own body weight as resistance qualify as weight bearing exercises. Swimming and biking have a wide range of healthful benefits and great activities for injury prevention and cardiovascular exercise, but have a lesser impact on strengthening bones.

Learn more about creating a bone-healthy exercise routine with our bone health guide.

For more information, contact Boston Children’s Orthopedic Center at

617-355-6021 | bostonchildrens.org/ortho.

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