Bone mass increases the most during childhood and adolescence, which is why bone health for kids is so important. How can you make sure your kids grow up with strong, healthy bones?
Calcium helps kids grow strong bones as they grow bigger. Plenty of calcium during childhood also helps guard against osteoporosis later in life.
Give your children milk to drink at meals for an easy way to make sure they get the calcium they need. Dark, leafy greens, cheese, canned salmon with bones, and calcium-fortified juice are alternatives.
Vitamin D helps the bones absorb calcium. We can get this vitamin from the sun, but many kids nowadays don’t play in the sun. Fortified dairy products, oily fish, and protein foods like nuts, eggs, and beans are good sources of Vitamin D. Almond milk, soy milk, or rice milk if Calcium-fortified are also good sources of Vitamin D.
In the past, kids who didn’t get enough sunlight sometimes suffered from a disorder called rickets. Rickets is a disease caused by vitamin D deficiency which leads to curved or misshapen bones. We rarely hear of this disease in modern times — but that could change. Vitamin D deficiency is on the rise, and an estimated one billion people worldwide are now deficient in this vitamin.
Let your kids go out and play, but also ask your pediatrician about supplements.
Weight-bearing exercise is essential for healthy bone growth. That means exercise that moves the whole body around, like running or jumping. In this kind of movement, the body lifts and moves its own weight. Playing video games, swimming, and biking are not weight-bearing exercise.
Team sports and outdoor play are great ways to get weight-bearing exercise. Play tag between school and dinner or take a family walk in the evening. Start the day with a dance party in the hallway or hike on the weekends.
Kids need 60 minutes of physical activity each day. This is a basic requirement for health, but most American kids don’t get this amount of movement. Try marking every active day on the calendar and working toward getting that hour of movement each day. It will be good for the whole family!
There is evidence that too much salt makes the body flush salt and calcium away in urine. Salty foods like chips, fast food, and other processed foods can keep kids from maintaining the level of calcium they need in their bones.
Peak bone mass occurs around age 20; after this age, people usually lose bone mass. That means that your kid must develop strong bones as a child and a teen. They won’t have a second chance.
Fortunately, healthy habits like eating nutritious foods and exercising regularly are good not just for bones but for general health as well. Help your kids develop these wholesome habits now and they’ll be in better health all their lives.