How to keep your bones healthy by staying active!
Lockdown and office working is forcing us to be more sedentary, spending longer periods of time seated at home, usually followed by even more inactivity from watching Netflix and then 6-10 hours sleeping!
For many, activity levels will be at an all time low.
Activity is important for your bones because bones need to be loaded to maintain density and to keep them in good health, all of which will lower the chances or effects of conditions like osteoporosis. If we’re seated for most the day and then laying down to sleep, there isn’t enough load on the bones to maintain good health.
What effect does inactivity have on your bones?
Over a period of time, inactivity could increase the chances of bone related problems including osteoporosis, arthritis and increased fracture risk.
It’s important to understand that your body adapts to the stresses you place on it. Bones require a gravitational force and loading to maintain a good level of density, and maintaining high levels of activity is especially important in formative adolescent years, https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2458-12-971.
It’s very important that awareness is raised in being too complacent with a sedentary lifestyle.
For example, the body replaces 10% of its skeleton a year. https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/21/2/115/2423739
This new bone will have adapted to the requirements asked of it and if it hasn’t been loaded, it may lose density which again over time can cause problems and or speed up the ageing process of bone.
It’s said that over 10 years the human skeleton is completely replaced, but this isn’t strictly true as different parts of the skeleton replace themselves at different rates. But expect a significant part of the skeleton to have changed over this period https://www.thehealthy.com/osteoporosis/bones-constantly-regenerate/.
The process involves "osteoclasts" that break down the bone and "osteoblasts" which rebuild. In fact a large percentage of your body is turning over and being replaced.
So, how do we keep our bones strong?
The good news is that any kind of activity you do will help keep your bones strong.
On reflection commuting has a positive side to it, as walking to and from work and the train station are a really good way to load the bones and burn calories!!
Effectively any kind of activity will help: resistance training, running, walking, cycling are also all doable under the current guidance.
Resistance training has been proven to have a marked effect on bone health https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9927006/
Whilst under lockdown conditions its very easy to neglect going out for a walk if it’s cold and wet. Try and view walking as essential exercise. We’re so used to going out for a nice walk in the sun in our favourite location. The reality is that now we just need to walk for our health.
I work long hours at my desk what can I do?
Firstly, if you can’t get away from your desk, try and get a standing desk. Due to gravity, even standing will have a positive effect.
Also try to get up and have a walk around even if it’s for 30 seconds, little and often quickly adds up.
Track your steps in some way, most phones have an app!! Set yourself goals start with 3000 and gradually find hacks to bring it up to 10000.
Also set yourself some exercises to tick off over the day.
Perhaps aim for 3 x 12 squats and a Plank across the work day. You don’t have to do all in one go, just pick at it as you find the time, you could do 12 reps at a time until you complete the required amount.
Here’s an example of exercise to tick off across the day -
3 x 12 bodyweight squats
1 x full plank
3 x 8 push-ups from the knees or toes.
Even better, try and set aside time every day for a scheduled continuous exercise session. Anything you can do will help massively, even if it’s at a very low intensity, it will go a long way to maintaining good bone health.
Will vitamin D supplements help?
Yes, vitamin D has been proven to help with maintaining bone density. A large portion of the UK population are deficient and this can lead to decreased bone density.
In summary, being sedentary over a long period of time will change the structures in your body. We need to make the effort to stay active in some way and maintain the awareness that your body will negatively adapt to being inactive for long periods.