can bones be strengthened
Your bone health is incredibly important. Learn how to strengthen bones and increase bone density through exercise and diet

Bones are made up of living tissue that are constantly rebuilding themselves. But as we age, our bone mass begins to decrease, increasing the risk of developing porous, fragile bones that may break easily.

Fortunately, it’s possible to maintain and strengthen bones through regular exercise and a healthy diet.

How to make your bones stronger through exercise

Regular exercise is the best way to preserve and strengthen bone mass. For optimal results, aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day. 

The best exercises are weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises, which make your bones stronger and denser:

  • Weight-bearing exercises: This includes any exercises where you are supporting your body weight using your feet and legs, making your bones and muscles work against gravity. Your bones react by getting stronger. Examples include:
    • Dancing
    • Hiking
    • Jogging or running
    • Skipping
    • Stair climbing
    • Tennis
    • Using elliptical training machines
    • Using stair-step machines
    • Brisk walking
  • Muscle-strengthening exercises: This includes any activities that require your muscles to work harder than normal, working the tendons that attach muscles to bones which in turn boosts bone strength. Examples include:
    • Lifting weights
    • Using elastic exercise bands
    • Lifting your own body weight
    • Functional movements, such as standing and rising on your toes

In general, studies have found that moderate weight-bearing activities such as running or jumping, can improve bone mass more than non-weight-bearing activities such as swimming. Yoga and Pilates can also improve strength, flexibility, and balance. 

It’s especially important for children and teenagers to strengthen their bones through exercise, as doing so will give them a foundation for good bone health later on in life.

How to increase bone density through diet

In addition to exercise, eating a balanced diet rich in calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients is key to improving bone density and strength. 

Calcium-rich diet

  • 99% of the calcium we eat is stored in our bones and 1% is used for other biological functions.
  • When calcium intake is low, bones can start to break down because the body needs to use the stored calcium to maintain normal biological functions.
  • Foods such as low-fat or non-fat dairy products, dark green vegetables, fish, beans, and tofu have high levels of calcium.

Calcium supplements

  • Two of the most common forms of calcium supplements are calcium carbonate and calcium citrate malate:
    • Calcium carbonate needs to be taken with food and may have side effects such as gas and bloating.
    • Calcium citrate malate can be taken with or without food, and it is better absorbed by the body.
  • Consult a good orthopedic doctor before taking any supplements. They can provide insight on your unique requirements, helping you make choices that work for you.

Vitamin D

  • Vitamin D supports bone development by increasing the body's absorption of calcium from food.
  • Foods with vitamin D include fortified beverages and cereals, fatty fish, and eggs.
  • You can also get vitamin D by exposing your face and arms to the sun for 15 minutes in the morning.

Sesame seeds

  • Sesame seeds are rich in copper, magnesium, calcium, healthy omega-3 fats, and protein, which are beneficial for bone health.
  • 30 grams of unhulled sesame seeds contain 22% of the recommended dietary intake (RDI) of calcium.

SLIDESHOW

Osteoporosis Super-Foods for Strong Bones With Pictures See Slideshow

Can you take medications for bone strengthening?

Medications called osteoclast inhibitors are usually prescribed in cases of moderate to severe osteoporosis (bone thinning). These medications can delay skeletal-related events (SREs) in the bone (such as fractures or spinal cord compression) and make the bones stronger:

  • Xgeva (denosumab) is administered monthly as an injection (a shot) under the skin.
  • Zometa (zoledronic acid) is a type of medicine called bisphosphonate. It is usually given intravenously every one to three months.

However, Xgeva and Zometa are associated with a rare side effect called osteonecrosis of the jaw, in which the cells in the jawbone start to die. Kidney problems are another rare side effect of these medications.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Medically Reviewed on 8/5/2021
References
National Institutes of Health. Exercise for Your Bone Health. https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/bone-health/exercise/exercise-your-bone-health#

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Five Foods to Strengthen Bones and Joints. https://www.bidmc.org/about-bidmc/wellness-insights/bones-and-joints/2018/11/5-foods-to-strengthen-bones-and-joints

American Bone Health. Building Your Best Bones Forever. https://americanbonehealth.org/best-bones-forever/building-your-best-bones-forever/