Health Hub

by Robin Gaudette

Recently someone asked me if she got vitamin D from the sun.

In my work at the aquatic center I get questions frequently about bone health. Let’s face it — bone loss and aging are intertwined. To fix the problem, we look to the formative years of peak bone development to begin making modifications. Half of the calcium in an adults bone structure is deposited between ages 13 -17. Deficiencies in calcium after 30 can lead to bone loss as high as 0.5 percent a year.

Genetic and environmental factors contributing to bone loss can’t be manipulated; we can thank our ancestors for that. What can be controlled is nutrition and physical activity, which will be the focus of this piece.

Calcium, vitamin D and physical activity/exercise are rated as the most important modifiable lifestyle changes you can make for bone health.

Key for skeletal development is proper nutrition. Not only to act as framework but to store minerals that are key players in every bodily function. Ninety-nine percent of calcium is stored in the bones and teeth.

If not ingested in sufficient amounts, the body will rob the bones. These minerals are best used by the body when taken in the form of food versus a supplement.

Calcium and vitamin D are partners in the equation. The proper absorption of calcium is dependent on sufficient vitamin D intake. Dairy products are the most efficient way to take in calcium. Per calorie, dairy products provide more calcium, magnesium, protein, zinc and phosphorous than any other food.

Calcium is present in whole grains and green leafy veggies, however you would have to eat 48 servings of grains or 24 servings of green veggies to equal one 6 ounce glass of milk.

Physical activity still remains the most important modifiable lifestyle risk factor to help prevent chronic disease, according to the surgeon general. The staggering numbers of more than 80 percent of adults don’t meet the basic guidelines for cardiovascular and musculoskeletal exercise.

Both aerobic activity and strength training are key and work together for bone maintenance. Simply stated, bone regeneration needs impact activities as well as the “pulling” against the bone by the muscular unit. Improvement will be seen at the boney site where the muscle is engaged.

Walking although important has shown to have a limited effect on bone, but combined with resistance training and high-impact exercise, can improve bone mass density in the hip, lumbar and lower spine region. High-impact exercise, even briefly such as skipping, hopping or jumping can increase BMD. Posture and balance activities are important for fall prevention.

Resistance training is proving to be the most effective way to increase or maintain BMD in the senior population. With proper resistance training, postural muscles and areas in the upper back and arms, common places for osteopenia are affected from the pull on the bone versus the impact through the feet.

Giving a shoutout to my beloved aqua fitness since water is 800 times denser than air, every movement you make in the water causes the muscle unit to pull on the bone. This makes aquatic exercise an excellent addition to improving fitness.

Back to vitamin D. Vitamins are nutrients that the body can’t manufacture so they must be consumed in the diet. Vitamin D can be made by our bodies with exposure to sunlight and this still remains the best way for the body to get adequate amounts. We only need 5 to 10 minutes of sun exposure on bare skin 2 to 3 times a week, tanning to a crispy brown isn’t necessary!

If at risk, check with your medical provider before making changes.

— Robin Gaudette is the aquatics wellness coordinator at the Redmond Area Park and Recreation District. Contact her at robin.gaudette@raprd.org .

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