Building a healthy skeletal system isn’t just about drinking milk and taking your daily vitamins. Regular physical activity is essential for bone health in kids. But not all exercise is created equally; here’s what you need to know about the best forms of exercise for building bone health in kids and teenagers.
Kids can consume all of the calcium-rich foods they want, but there’s more to skeletal development and lifelong bone health than what they eat. Exercise, and specifically load-bearing, high-impact activities, are essential to ensure that kids develop a healthy, strong bone structure for life.
Best Forms of Activity for Kids & Bone Health
Physical activity of any kind, from soccer to swimming, contributes to healthy body weight in children and adults. And our skeletal systems benefit from a healthy body weight because our bones don’t have to support added strain from excess weight.
However, there are certain forms of activity that are better for children’s skeletal system than others. In particular, weight-bearing activities help build strong bones. These include hiking, dancing, tennis, gymnastics, walking, and running. In addition, lifting weights and other forms of resistance training can help strengthen muscles, which in turn support the skeletal system.
Of course, if your child already has compromised bone health, he or she should avoid activities that may come with an increased risk of falling and injury. Sports to avoid include riskier, high-impact activities like football, hockey, and mountain biking.
Other popular activities for kids have minimal impact, like swimming, roller skating, and biking. These are great for maintaining a healthy weight and a strong cardiovascular system. However, they don’t check the box when it comes to bone health or building strength.
How Much Exercise is Best for Bone Health?
Studies show that short, intense periods of exercise go a long way towards improving bone health in children. It’s recommended that children get at least 60 minutes of exercise a day, whether that be load-bearing or otherwise. And most children, especially girls, fall well short of this goal.
Finding activities that your child enjoys, whether they’re traditional sports or not, can help make exercise fun. Dance, nature walks, and playground time are all great ways to get your kid’s heart rate up without organized sports.
How Body Weight Affects Bone Health
As rates of childhood obesity rise around the world, more and more studies address the effects of overweight on overall health and development. Several studies show that the risk of bone fractures is higher in obese children.
There are several reasons for this. First, obesity is often the result of poor diet and a lack of physical activity. These two factors conspire to produce brittle bones more prone to breakage. Secondly, a larger body mass means a harder fall. And finally, children who don’t participate in physical exercise also have an increased risk of falling.
Obesity can also increase the likelihood of developing osteoporosis as an adult.
However, if your child is active and at a healthy body weight and you’re still concerned about bone health, the other essential factor is diet. Ensure your son or daughter gets all of the bone-building nutrients he or she needs with a well-rounded diet high in calcium, magnesium, and iron supported by a bone health supplement.
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