Osteoporosis: Prevention in Teen Years (cont.)

Get Enough Weight-Bearing Exercise

Growing bone is especially sensitive to the impact of weight and pull of muscle during exercise, and responds by building stronger, denser bones. That's why it's especially important when you're growing a lot to be physically active on a regular basis. And as far as bone is concerned, Calvo says impact activity like jumping up and down appears to be the best. "But the important thing is to get off the couch and get moving at some activity. It really is a matter of 'Use it now, or lose it later'." Such activities include sports and exercise, including football, basketball, baseball, jogging, dancing, jumping rope, inline skating, skateboarding, bicycling, ballet, hiking, skiing, karate, swimming, rowing a canoe, bowling, and weight-training. And when your parents make you mow the lawn, rake leaves, or wash and wax the car, they're doing your muscles and bones a favor. FDA's Welch adds, "Day-to-day activities that start in the teen years, like walking the dog or using stairs instead of elevators, can become life-long habits for healthy bones."

Avoid Bone Risks

Some habits in the teenage years can steal calcium from your bones or increase the need for it, weakening the skeleton for life. Skipping meals is risky for bone, Welch says. In our three-meal-a-day society, skipping a meal may reduce by a third your chance of getting your 120%DV for calcium -- simply by eliminating one occasion to eat. Replacing milk with nondairy drinks like soda pop or fruit-flavored teas or drinks is another eating habit that prevents bones from getting the calcium and other nutrients they need.

In a survey comparing 1994 daily beverage intakes with those in the late 1970s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture found a switch from milk to other drinks among young people:

  • Milk drinkers among teenagers dropped from three-fourths to little more than half.
  • Two to three times more children and teenagers drank non-citrus fruit juices.
  • Teenage boys nearly tripled their intake of soft drinks, three-fourths of them drinking about 34 ounces; two-thirds of teenage girls drank 23 ounces.

Alcohol abuse and cigarette smoking can hurt bone. Calvo says, "Alcohol abuse can cause loss of calcium, magnesium and zinc in the urine. Many who abuse alcohol also have poor diets and malnourished, weaker bones." Cigarette smoke is also toxic to bone and can influence how much exercise you get because it affects your stamina, she says. Eating disorders can weaken bone. The repeated vomiting in bulimia and extreme dieting in the appetite disorder anorexia can upset the body's balance of calcium and important hormones like bone-protective estrogen, decreasing bone density. And extreme exercising by young women with or without eating disorders can postpone or stop menstruation, when blood levels of estrogen are reduced.