It’s time to bust these common myths about bone health and height growth in kids and teenagers.
Throughout adolescence, kids are developing their skeletal system. Women reach peak bone mass around age 18, while men develop around age 20, according to the NIH.11 That means that from birth through the late teenage years, it’s more important than ever for children and parents to pay attention to bone health.
But there’s a lot of information out there about what growing kids and young adults need to do to support healthy development. From sleep to nutrition to activity, it can be hard to keep up with the latest science and to distinguish the truth from exaggeration.
So let’s set some common myths about bone health and growth straight.
Common Myths about Bone Health and Growth
1. Osteoporosis is only a concern for older adults
The truth is that osteoporosis can affect younger people too, including young adults. Osteoporosis is a bone disease that can make fractures easy and very painful.
While this bone disease is most common among older people, the best way to avoid osteoporosis in the future is to take care of your bones during youth and adolescence. To prevent osteoporosis, the best thing is to maximize bone mass through proper nutrition, healthy sleep habits, and regular physical activity.2
2. The only nutrient that supports both health and growth is calcium
Calcium is essential for proper bone mass and strength. However, this one nutrient is not alone in supporting a robust skeletal system. Other nutrients your bones need include zinc, vitamin D, and magnesium.
Children and teenagers should make sure they eat plenty of these vitamins from sources like leafy greens, dairy, nuts, and seeds. However, when diet falls short, a nutritional supplement is an easy way to fill in any gaps in a diet.
3. Physical activity doesn’t affect bone health or height
In fact, just like your muscles will grow and strengthen the more you use them, so too will your bones. This is especially true for developing bodies. And the best kind of physical activities for healthy bone growth have some amount of impact or weight bearing. These include running, hiking, dancing, tennis and other team sports that involve running.
Weight lifting is also great for bones, as the resistance on the muscular and skeletal system helps strengthen both.
4. Sleep is important for health, but it won’t impact height or growth
Most people know that getting adequate sleep is important for overall health. In fact, studies show that when students don’t get the amount of rest their bodies need on a regular basis, their memory, grades and mental health can suffer.
But that’s not all. When we sleep, our bodies recover and rebuild. Kids especially need this time of rest to recharge and build bone density. One study found that people who get less than five hours of sleep a night have an increased risk of osteoporosis due to lower bone mineral density.3
At the end of the day, when it comes to supporting healthy growth and bone health in kids and teenagers, it’s important to cut through the noise. Avoid these common myths and you’ll be able to give kids access to the nutrition, exercise and sleep they need to grow strong, healthy bones for life.
1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Kids and Their Bones: A Guide for Parents. National Institutes of Health. https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/bone-health/juvenile
2 Stallings VA. Calcium and bone health in children: a review. Am J Ther. 1997 Jul-Aug;4(7-8):259-73. doi: 10.1097/00045391-199707000-00007. PMID: 10423619.
3 Ochs-Balcom, H.M., Hovey, K.M., Andrews, C., Cauley, J.A., Hale, L., Li, W., Bea, J.W., Sarto, G.E., Stefanick, M.L., Stone, K.L., Watts, N.B., Zaslavsky, O. and Wactawski-Wende, J. (2020), Short Sleep Is Associated With Low Bone Mineral Density and Osteoporosis in the Women's Health Initiative. J Bone Miner Res, 35: 261-268. https://doi.org/10.1002/jbmr.3879