Usually, when parents think about their child’s health, they do not consider their bone health. Instead, they think about how they are growing, their annual health checkups, and maybe even their diet. But building healthy bones now, while they are still growing, is an important consideration. Not only does good bone health prevent fractures and add strength, but it also can help prevent osteoporosis later in life.
Physical Activity and Healthy Bones
Most parents believe that once teens reach their full height, they are done developing. But the truth is, the late teen years are a vital time for bone growth, even after a teen is fully grown. In fact, a study published in the JAMA Pediatrics found that roughly 10 percent of bone mass continues to accumulate after teens reach their adult height.
What they discovered is that teens who are less active had weaker bones. In other words, kids who are sitting around gaming, using technology or just being lazy are not loading their bones in ways that promote bone strength. Some examples of weight-bearing activities include running and jumping or sports like soccer, basketball, volleyball, and ultimate Frisbee.
Factors Impacting Bone Health
Bones are continuously changing, especially in children and teens. In fact, new bone is being made and old bone is being broken down. Consequently, a number of things can impact this process. Here is an overview of some of the factors that impact bone health and strength.
- Physical Activity. As mentioned earlier, children and teens who are physically inactive have a higher risk of osteoporosis later in life than their more active peers.
- Calcium Intake. When a young person’s diet is low in calcium, this results in diminished bone density.
- Eating Disorders. Teens that have eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia are at risk for bone loss.
- Certain Medications. Talk to your doctor about the medications your child is taking and their potential impact on bone health. For instance, long-term use of prednisone can be damaging to your child’s bones.
How to Keep Your Kids’ Bones Healthy
Developing healthy habits like proper nutrition and physical activity will go a long way in promoting bone health in your kids. Remember, your kids are watching you closely. So, your habits, both good and bad, have a strong impact on their behavior.
The best thing you can do is to encourage proper nutrition and plenty of physical activity. You can do this by preparing healthy meals and snacks and limiting screen time. You also may want to get them involved in extracurricular activities as well as encourage them to do other physical activities like playing tag, walking the dog, and ice skating.