We spend a lot of time focusing on muscle (which is good), but sometimes our bones get overlooked. Our muscle would have nowhere to go if it weren't for our bones. Most of our muscles attach to the 206 bones we have in our body. 177 of those bones engage in voluntary movement, or movement we can control. Even when we're using our hands, there are 29 bones (simply in our wrist, hand, and fingers), that help control that movement.
Let's talk about bones.
Bones serve as the structural framework for the body... just like the framing for a building. They protect our internal organs from injury. They are very vascular and store several minerals (like calcium and phosphorus), which help strengthen the bone. In fact, our bone tissue stores about 99% of our total body calcium. That's amazing! In certain bones, our bone marrow produces red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets through a process called hemopoiesis (blood making). They are doing many different things for our body, that we often take for granted.
Do you ever wonder why babies are so flexible? My little Ellie can literally fold in half, fit her feet in her mouth, and do the splits any way she wants. Infants have more than 300 bones that will eventually fuse as they age. Until then, there are little spaces in between those bones that are just pliable cartilage (like the cartilage in the tip of our nose)... so for a while, they can bend any which way they please. As they fuse, they will start to lose some of that flexibility.
Our bones are continuously changing: new bone is made and old bone is broken down. When we're young, our body makes new bone faster than it breaks down old bone, and our bone mass increases. Most people reach their peak bone mass around age 30. After that, we’re still making new bone, but we are losing slightly more bone mass than we gain.
Also, women are a little more prone to get osteoporosis, which is a condition that causes bones to become more weak and susceptible to more breaks. The higher bone mass you have “in the bank,” the less likely you are going to get osteoporosis, and the stronger your bones will be.
That's why it's important to take care of our bones right now!
Three things we can do for healthier bones:
1. Include plenty of calcium in our diet! They say to be taking in ~1,000 milligrams of calcium a day. After 50 years old, ~1,200 mg a day is recommended. Good sources of calcium are things like dairy products (milk), almonds, broccoli, kale, etc.
2. Make sure to get your vitamin D! We need vitamin D to absorb calcium. We get this vitamin primarily from the sun, but also from things we eat like tuna fish, egg yolks, etc. I know of a lot of people in Utah who take a vit. D supplement in the winter because there’s limited sunlight. So that may also be something to ask your doctor about if you need more calcium.
3. Include weight-bearing exercise in your health regimen! Weight-bearing exercise helps build strong bones and slow bone loss. So get out and go walking, jogging, play tennis, climb stairs, etc. Do what you love and get moving to protect and strengthen those bones!