Men who participate in athletic sports in their late teens gain stronger bones, a benefit that can persist long after they stop exercising intensively. This is because exercise has the greatest effect on bone mineral density during childhood and puberty.
Researchers tracked the bone health of 63 athletes and 27 non-athletes, from when they were an average age of 17 until they were an average age of 25.
The athletic group, composed of hockey and badminton players, actively trained for nine hours every week, and had generally been doing so for about a decade. Their workouts included weight training, playing soccer and long-distance running.
Over the course of the study, 40 athletes stopped their training and, consequently, their average bone mineral density (BMD) fell dramatically.
Nevertheless, the group that was athletically active at the outset of the study had better BMD numbers -- no matter if they continued exercising or didn't -- than the non-athletic group, particularly in their hips, where debilitating fractures often occur. The researchers estimated that the young athletes cut their risk of future fractures in half by being active.
As you know, preventing osteoporosis begins when you're young. And a study I previously ran found a stronger connection between exercise and improved bone density among teens than taking calcium.
The last thing you want to consider doing is to take a drug to improve your bone density, as without any question, that is a prescription for potential long-term harm, not benefit. (Except for the drug company's beneift, of course, as they will gain economically.)
Amazing to me but true, most patients I see are far more concerned about their calcium requirements than whether or not they are getting enough exercise to build their bones. But exercise is key and may actually be more important than calcium.
Just look at the space station astronauts who go up for weeks or months at a time. Without the gravity stress they lose tremendous amounts of bone density. To get it to a minimum they must exercise two hours per day despite taking all the calcium they should need for bone health.
Jump-starting an exercise program can be frustrating, however, if you don't know where to begin. But I have plenty of free tools on my site to help you get started. My beginners' exercise page includes links to other pages and a free table you can download to keep track of your progress.
Diet is, of course, also tremendously important for strong bones. One thing you can do if you are worried about your bone density is to increase your consumption of vegetables based on your body's unique nutritional type. You can also try vegetable juicing.
One of the many positive qualities of vegetable juice is that it is high in vitamin K, which is a crucial part of bone health. Yet most people do not get enough of it from diet alone unless they juice vegetables or eat large amounts of dark green leafy vegetables.
The type of vitamin K from plants is vitamin K1. An even stronger vitamin K is vitamin K2 and this is obtained from animals. Probably one of the best ways to obtain vitamin K2 is from fermented raw milk products.
You should also consider using krill oil, containing omega-3 fats, which are the stealth dietary weapon in preserving your bone density.
It is also important to remember another basic tool of sun exposure to maintain your bone health. I am not talking about a few minutes of exposure on your face and hands, but the healthy dose you receive while wearing shorts and either no shirt or a sport bra for women. This is the type of exposure most of us require to generate significant levels of vitamin D from the sun.