Bones are incredible!
People have 206 bones (give or take) in our body which are perfectly placed to create the structure for our upright movement patterns. We often take for granted this incredible system of muscles using bones like levers to create movement. But, if you imagine your bones to be just hard, calcified, “sticks” that don’t change much, you are about to be pleasantly surprised.
Bone mineral density (BMD) changes throughout the human lifespan. Infants are born with very soft bones, which gradually calcify as they grow. During the childhood and adolescent years our BMD reaches its peak, and then there is a subtle decline through the following decades.
The magic thing about our bones (and the rest of our body) is that they are constantly undergoing maintenance, or “remodelling” as we say in anatomical terms! Our cells are aging, dying and being renewed in a never-ending cycle.
The demand placed on our cells determines how/where and when they are renewed. The saying -“if you don’t use it, you lose it” perfectly describes how our bodies work! You may have noticed that while you are exercising, your body adapts to changes and doing a workout (and recovering) becomes easier over time. You may have also noticed that once you stop, all those benefits gradually seep away over time.
You see, it takes energy to maintain a strong body. Look at those large musclular men who need to eat six proper meals per day, or half a dozen eggs for breakfast. More energy is needed to keep the body alive when you have more lean body mass. However, if you were to get seriously ill, you would find that your body would reduce in size pretty damn quickly. I remember working with a client who had suffered intestinal colitis and very nearly didn’t survive his ordeal. Fortunately he did, but when he eventually walked out of the hospital, it was with multiple, osteoporotic crush fractures in his spine. This man was mid thirties and a bicycle cop – in the peak of his fitness. The fight for his life had used every reserve of energy to survive. At that time, his bones were the lowest priority of energy. Fortunately for us, all this means, we can also stimulate our bodies through the use of exercise to remodel themselves in a positive way!
We can build up muscle strength and size – at any age! If we can rebuild muscle, we can also rebuild bone.
Dietary and lifestyle factors that affect Bone Mineral Density
There are a number of dietary and lifestyle factors that affect BMD. These include:
- Dietary intake of calcium
- Vitamin D from the sun
- Physical activity
- Illness / chronic disease
Although we have no control over some of these factors, there are many we can modify to improve our bone quality.
Building Bone Density
Bones are built to withstand high amounts of compressive forces almost three times more than other forces that act on bone. This kind of force is called ground reaction force (GRF). GRF occurs in situations where we are jumping and landing. You will notice that young children are constantly jumping, running and landing – all of which help to increase their BMD. Unfortunately children who are far less active have a disadvantage in terms of bone mineral density.
As an adult, when was the last time you jumped? When was the last time you played like a child and ran and skipped? These movements in the past have been touted as “bad for your joints” (especially if you have some arthritic pain), but the latest evidence contradicts this belief! GRF’s are not only good for bones, but they are good for the cartilage that surrounds your joints! As cartilage has very limited blood supply, it is the soak and squeeze (picture a sponge here) of GRFs that increase nutrient supply to your joints. Obviously, as doing GRF exercises is challenging, scary and potentially painful for joints, working with an experienced health professional will minimise these concerns for you, and determine if doing GRF exercises is suitable for you.
Research into BMD and physical activity demonstrates that those who perform regular, moderate intensity exercise have better BMD than those who are sedentary. Similarly, those who do muscle strengthening exercises also maintain their BMD better.
Are you looking for an opportunity to increase your bone density? Our new bone Builders course is designed to target your bones with specific exercises to provide load and compression forces which stimulate bone density, but done in a way that is sustainable.
Contact us if you are interested in learning more!