The Key to Bone Health That No One Talks About
Proper alignment is the key to strong and healthy bones—now and in the future.
You probably don’t spend too much time thinking about your skeleton, but consider this: Your bones are alive, constantly breaking down and rebuilding themselves. Peak bone mass is reached in your late teens and 20s, but it’s possible to keep accruing it well into your 40s and beyond…. though that’s easier said than done.
“Bone health depends on skeletal alignment, and most people today are completely out of alignment,” says Brian Bradley, Fitness Director of Elev8d. When the shoulders, hips, knees and ankles are all well aligned, it creates what’s called a “vertical load,” meaning gravity is continuously applying its force down through the bones. That force, in turn, helps strengthen the skeleton…that’s why high-impact and weight-bearing exercise is forever being touted for its bone-building potential. (And also why astronauts workout two and a half hours a day, six times a week, while in orbit in an effort to mitigate the loss of bone mass that occurs in outer space – a loss that occurs at a rate of about ten times that of osteoporosis.)
“But if your joints aren’t stacked properly, those gravitational forces can’t exert their positive, strengthening effect on the bones,” Bradley says. The new Standard American Posture – rounded shoulders and backs, necks jutting out, all courtesy of days spent sitting and slumped over computers or hunching down to peer into smartphones – has led to an epidemic of C curves. Our backs should look like supple, beautiful curving S curves, with a slight dip at the low back keeping the shoulders stacked atop the hips, but instead, we’ve all gone Quasimodo, our shoulders and backs perma-rounded. Letting your head protrude forward even just a few inches, puts an enormous amount of pressure and stress on your neck. It might help you see your text messages better, but it can also lead to muscle strain, pinched nerves, headaches, degenerative joint disease. And it’s doing our bones no favors whatsoever.
Exercise Also Builds Bone Mass
Ditto for our lack of movement. “When you jump up and come back down, the impact travels up through your skeleton,” Bradley says. That force, in turn, sends the message to the cells in the bones that they need to grow stronger in order to withstand future wear and tear. A recent American Journal of Health Promotion study found that when women ages 25 to 50 were instructed to jump as high as possible 10 times a day, twice daily, for 16 weeks, their hip bone density increased by an average of 0.5 percent. A half-percent may sound negligible, but the women who didn’t jump lost about 1.3 percent of their bone density during the same period.
You don’t have to jump in place to build bone. (Although the National Osteoporosis Foundation does recommend that kids do 100 jumping jacks at least three times a week to get a head start on proper bone health!) All types of weight-bearing physical movements – bending, squatting, lunges, walking, dancing, weight lifting, yoga – compel your bones to respond to the stress being exerted on them. “Bones depend largely on the pull of attached muscles in order to grow stronger,” says Lori Rubenstein Fazzio, DPT, director of the Yoga Therapy Rx Program at Loyola Marymount University and part time faculty in LMU’s Master of Arts in Yoga. “So when you build muscle mass, you build bone density.”
Classic Elev8d moves like Mountain Climbers or Bear Crawls, then, exert healthy stress on the bones, forcing them to respond by growing stronger.
According to a new Osteoporosis International study, the bone health of Americans is declining…to the tune of an additional 11,000 fractures being reported from 2013 to 2015 above what was expected. The combined lifetime risk for being diagnosed with a hip, forearm or vertebral fracture is about 40 percent – similar to the risk of heart disease.
Ready to Fight Back Against Bone Loss?
In addition to a plant-based, bone-friendly diet (Vitamin D and calcium are equally important), you need to move, and you need to maintain or improve your posture. You’ll need to make your own spinach and walnut salad…but Elev8d can help you with the rest.
The Elev8d 8×8 Challenge, an eight-minute, weight-bearing workout incorporating eight movements that strengthen bones, including jumps, squats, and more. These moves will help your four load-bearing joints –shoulders, hips, knees and ankles – to naturally fall into alignment. And simply put, “Better posture leads to better bone strength,” says Jim Buskirk, M.S.Ed, PT, SCS, a physical therapist and exercise physiologist at the University of Miami.