Strong Bones and Core Strengthening - Good Tips for a Healthy Lower Back

Strong bones are important for all of us, not only for the aging baby boomers about whom we're hearing so much lately. And, "strong bones" are much more than a marketing ploy cooked-up by the dairy industry and pharmaceutical companies.

Bones are incredibly dynamic, constantly reshaping themselves in response to physical forces. Bones provide structure for our bodies, and they carry our weight around as we move from place to place. Long bones such as the thigh bone act as factories to produce blood cells. So, bones are an important part of our overall health and well-being.

Lots can go wrong when your bones aren't strong. If you suddenly fall onto an outstretched arm, you'll probably be OK if your bones are healthy. If not, you'll probably be in a cast for four weeks to help repair a wrist or forearm fracture.

If an older person falls, hip fractures are the main concern. A fit, healthy person can usually walk away. With weakened bones, hip fractures can result in many other problems, both immediately and long-term.

Bones lose their strength due to a calcium imbalance and/or not enough physical exercise. For most of us, these factors can be corrected. The best approach, of course, is to be proactive and ensure enough calcium in the diet and regular exercise.

How much calcium and how much exercise? Recommended daily calcium requirements1 vary, and 1000 mg per day is a good ballpark amount. Dairy products are the best natural source of calcium, and dark leafy greens such as spinach and broccoli, as well as dried beans, are also good sources. Vitamin/mineral supplements typically provide 25-50% of the daily calcium requirement.

Regarding exercise, both the American Heart Association2 and the American College of Sports Medicine recommend 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week. This takes some effort and planning, particularly if regular exercise is a new addition to one's routine. By making the effort and spending the time, we're saying "yes" to health and wellness, empowering ourselves as well as our family and friends.

Importantly, regular exercise in combination with sufficient dietary calcium is the key. Taking calcium alone will not be effective in maintaining strong bones. Unless long bones are undergoing consistent mechanical stresses, as with exercise, there's no need for them to use the calcium that's available. Exercise plus calcium makes the difference!

Core strengthening3 is a hot topic in the world of fitness - Pilates training and its offshoots. But the principles of core strengthening have been around for many decades - dancers, gymnasts, boxers, and wrestlers have been doing these things all along. Only the term "core fitness" is new.

Core fitness turns out to be critically important for all of us. By adding a handful of core exercises - 10 minutes at most - to your regular routine, you will profoundly improve the mechanics of your lower back, hips, and pelvis. And, these remarkable exercises improve the efficiency of your heart and lungs. A very big "bang" for your exercise "buck"!

Your chiropractor will be able to provide expert advice and guidance on these nutritional- and exericise-related topics.

1Daly RM, et al. Long-term effects of calcium-vitamin-D3 fortified milk on bone geometry and strength in older men. Bone 39(4):946-953, 2006.
2Haskell WL, et al. Physical Activity and Public Health. Updated Recommendations for Adults from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association. American Heart Association, 2007.
3Akuthota V, Nadler SF. Core strengthening. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 85(3 Suppl 1):S86-92, 2004.

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