Children and adolescents are constantly growing, which makes their skeleton increasingly vulnerable to fractures. Did you know that 30-50% of children experience a fracture by the end of their teenage years? Nutrition and physical activity are not only important for helping prevent fractures during growth; they have a long lasting effect, helping to prevent osteoporosis later in life. By the time an individual reaches their mid-20’s they achieve “peak bone mass,” the maximum density and strength of the skeleton.
Building larger, stronger bones early in life can offset the development of osteoporosis later in life, but lifestyle choices made in youth and adolescence can influence 20-40% of your child’s peak bone mass.
Fact: a small 5-10% change in peak bone mass can offset the chance of hip fracture by 25-50% later in life.
What can you do to ensure your child develops healthy bones early on?
Follow these simple steps:
Become familiar with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans to encourage daily healthy eating and exercise regimens. Teenagers are the most likely subpopulation in the U.S. to not meet recommendations for both calcium and vitamin D.
Impact exercise (e.g., jump rope, jumping jacks, running, etc.) strongly influences bone development. Just 100 impacts, 3 times per week for a period of 7 months can significantly help to build and strengthen bones in youth.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation just released a position statement on lifestyle factors that affect peak bone mass development. The evidence report, published in Osteoporosis International, recommends families, schools and communities encourage and foster programs for youth to obtain recommended intakes of calcium, vitamin D and dairy, in addition to increasing physical activity.
Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption also helps youth to achieve the necessary amounts of many essential vitamins and minerals that play an active role in bone health. Many people don’t realize that foods such as potatoes and prunes contain bone healthy nutrients such as potassium, magnesium and dietary fiber.
It’s never too early to start thinking about your child’s bone health. Remember that your bones are like a savings account… they only gain interest on the amount you deposit!