Our bones are tough, but they need maintenance and care to keep their strength. Bones are made of primarily two substances — collagen and calcium phosphate. Collagen is a protein with a tensile strength greater than steel but a flexibility that allows it to absorb tremendous loads placed on it. Calcium phosphate is a mineral that helps create hard bone. The combination ensures both strength and flexibility.
When Bones Get Weak
If the body is not getting enough calcium or phosphorus from the diet, it will take it from the bones. Over time, continued borrowing can compromise the skeleton's strength. As we age, normal wear and tear affects our bodies, including our bones. Conditions such as osteoporosis and bone metastases (cancer) can cause bone to deteriorate and weaken at a faster rate. This can cause chronic pain and make bones more susceptible to fractures. Diseases that accelerate bone loss should be treated by a medical professional. However, there are supplemental ways to help strengthen bones or slow down bone loss.
Calcium & Vitamin D
The skeleton responds best when it is fed with appropriate nutrition. A healthy diet should include plenty of calcium or vitamin D. Calcium is needed for building new bone tissue while vitamin D is needed for the body to absorb that calcium properly.
Foods like green leafy vegetables have whopping amounts of calcium in them. Dairy products, of course, are also a great source of calcium. For those who can't handle regular dairy products (lactose intolerance) there are lactose–free options and supplements out there that can help supplement what you take in from vegetables. Some foods — breads, juices and cereals — have been fortified with calcium. For most people, there is no need for a calcium supplement with a calcium–rich diet.
Exercise also helps keeps bones strong. Increased bone strength due to exercise is the result of the skeleton working against gravity and the push and pull of the muscles attached to the bone. It responds like any biological system should; when subjected to a stress, the bones adapt to become stronger.
For those with healthy bones, high–impact sports, such as soccer and basketball, and other activities like hiking and even walking are good exercises to maintain bone health. Strength and resistance training are also great ways to develop stronger bones.
For people with weaker or deteriorating bones, low–impact exercise, such as water aerobics, is sometimes possible. However, those suffering from osteoporosis or bone cancer should first consult their healthcare provider before attempting any kind of exercise.