Children who regularly play sports and get outside are not only healthier and happier during their childhood, but they also develop stronger bones and a healthier body weight for life. The more bone mass a child creates during childhood and adolescence, the more they increase their chances of preventing osteoporosis. Up to 90 percent of peak bone mass is developed in girls by age 18 and in boys by age 20, meaning childhood is the ideal time to build healthy bones.
Unfortunately, opportunities for families to invest in their children’s bone health are often overlooked due to busy schedules. In honor of Family Wellness Month, we encourage parents and grandparents to support healthy, active behaviors in their children and grandchildren.
Obesity and Bone Health
Bone health is also dependent on a healthy body weight. Unfortunately, the percentage of children who are overweight or obese has more than doubled in the last 30 years. A child who is overweight may be unable to exercise and therefore unable to build bone mass. Obesity can also place stress on a child’s developing musculoskeletal system, which can impair bone growth and contribute to serious childhood orthopaedic conditions.
Get Up, Get Out and Get Moving
Incorporating exercise and activity into your family’s busy life can be tricky, but a slow and steady course is the best way to begin to improve general fitness.
- Model active behavior for your children by joining them in physical activities.
- Kids should try different types of sports, such as soccer, basketball, baseball and football.
- Ask for help—learn about new sports from coaches, teachers, friends and parents.
- Do warm-up exercises to get your body ready to be active.
- Plan to be active for at least 30 minutes (preferably 45 minutes) each day. This can be all at once or broken into smaller periods.
- Challenge yourself with new activities or make new goals each week.
- Use exercise to help others—rake your yard or walk your neighbor’s dog.
Combine Exercise and Activity with a Healthy Diet
Building bone mass requires a diet rich in calcium, as well as appropriate levels of vitamins D and C. Unfortunately, most children are not receiving enough of these nutrients. A 2015 CDC survey found that 22 percent of American teens had no milk—an important source of vitamin D and calcium—in the last seven days.
- Kids and young adults, ages 10 to 20 years, need at least 1,300 mg of calcium each day.
- Calcium can be found in cheese, and green, leafy vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli.
- Avoid sodas and carbonated beverages—they decrease calcium absorption in the intestines and contain empty calories.
- For children with food allergies or lactose intolerance, a vitamin D supplement may be recommended by your physician or pediatrician.
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