So you’ve got the message that you need to eat and drink plenty of foods with calcium and vitamin D and do lots of bone-strengthening physical activity. But I bet you’re wondering why these things give you strong, healthy bones.
From the day you’re born, your bones are being built with calcium to make them stronger.
Calcium makes bones as strong as steel!
When your body makes new bone tissue, it first lays down a framework of collagen. Then, tiny crystals of calcium from your blood spread throughout the collagen framework. The hard crystals fill in all the nooks and crannies. Calcium and collagen work together to make bones strong and flexible.
Too little calcium makes bones weak.
Your body needs calcium to do lots of things. Calcium helps your muscles work so you can throw a softball. It helps send out nerve impulses. If you touch something hot, for instance, your brain quickly gets and sends the message to say, “Ouch!” and move your hand away. Calcium also helps your body heal from cuts and scrapes.
Every cell in your body needs calcium. Your bones store calcium for your blood and cells. If your body doesn’t get enough calcium, which can be found in some foods and drinks, it takes it from your bones. And that can make your bones weak. From the day you’re born, your bones are built and strengthened with calcium. In fact, when you’re in your 20s, your bones will be their strongest ever.
To make sure your bones are still powerful, even after you’re 30, 40 or even 50 (ancient!), you need to get enough calcium now and keep getting it.
What foods have calcium? A lot! Check out this list.
Calcium can’t do its job without vitamin D. This important vitamin helps your bones use the calcium they get from the foods you eat. Not many foods contain vitamin D, so it is added to common foods like milk, orange juice, yogurt, and cereals to help you reach the 600 international units (IU) you need every day. You can also get vitamin D from canned tuna or salmon or from sunlight.
Are you saying, “I get the whole calcium thing, but why is physical activity so important?” Here’s why: Activities that include running and jumping, like soccer or basketball, make your bones work against gravity (the force that keeps us from floating out to space). Bones are living tissue. Bone-strengthening activity helps form new bone tissue. Also, bone-strengthening activity makes muscles stronger, and muscles push and tug against bones, making them even stronger.
Swimming, which is good for your heart and other muscles, isn’t the best choice for building bones. Ever notice how you feel a lot lighter in a pool? Water cuts down on the pull of gravity, so your bones really don’t get a good workout. Riding your bike is also not an activity that’s best for your bones. Just like water, the bike is actually doing the work for you. These activities are fun, though, and good for your health! Just make sure you mix in some best-for-bones activities too.
Strong bones need calcium, vitamin D, and bone-strengthening activity. It’s not enough to just eat right or just get lots of physical activity. It takes all of these to make bones strong. So jump to it!