Why Having Strong and Healthy Bones Is Important
Beyond fretting about breaking an arm when you’re ice-skating, you probably don’t give your bones – all 206 of them – much thought. In addition to being the physical framework that props your body up, your bones perform a slew of other vital biological functions. You may not think it, but your bones aren’t static; they’re alive, active tissues that are constantly evolving and changing composition to meet your body’s growing needs. So, while they may get less attention than any other body part, here’s why bone health is so essential. Time to bone up on your bone knowledge.
Bones provide support
Bones are famous for supporting the body. By simply looking at yourself in the mirror, you can visibly see how bones hold your body up, and provide it with structure and form. Think of bones as your scaffolding. In the same way steel beams support the weight of a building, the bones in your skeleton provide a similar structure to support the rest of your body. Without bones, you would be nothing more than an inconspicuous blob of muscle, skin, and organs. Bones are equipped to support the human body by virtue of their rigid and hardwearing properties. In fact, bones are the strongest structures in the body, aside from teeth. Despite being immensely sturdy and robust, your bones are also lightweight, meaning they can support the body without weighing you down.
Bones aid movement
Relish that early morning stroll to work? You’ve got your bones to thank for that. You see, your skeletal system is intimately woven with your muscular system. Sometimes, the two are even acknowledged as one entity – the musculoskeletal system. That being said, not all of your muscles need the support of bones to move – you have muscles in our cardiovascular system, for instance. But the muscles you employ for voluntary motion need bones to operate properly. The two work in tandem to facilitate movement.
Bones offer protection
Besides being inert hangers for the human body and enabling movement, bones are also powerful weapons of protection. Your skeletal system plays a central role in safeguarding your vital organs from injury. The most obvious examples are your skull and backbone. Here, bones protect the central nervous system – a critically important job as this fragile structure controls the rest of your body. Your ribs play a significant protective role, too, safeguarding your heart and lungs.
Bones support the production of blood cells
Your bones are sites for blood cell production, too. The inside of your bones is filled with a softer connective tissue called bone marrow. There are two types of bone marrow: red marrow and yellow marrow. Red marrow is where a process called haematopoiesis – the production of blood cells – occurs. Red blood cells – needed for the transportation of oxygen throughout the body – and white blood cells – needed for immunity – are synthesized here. Yellow marrow, on the other hand, is a hive for the production of adipocytes – fat cells that serve as a source of energy.
Bones store minerals
Most of us are familiar with the connection between calcium and bones. But did you know bones are responsible for the regulation of calcium levels in the body, too? Your bones are a reservoir of calcium. When the body needs more of the mineral to support physiological functions, such as supporting nerve impulses or aiding with muscle contractions, bone tissue is broken down to boost the blood’s supply. Any excess calcium will be stored in the bone tissue for later use.
What happens if your bone health is compromised?
Safe to say, bones are the unsung heroes of the human anatomy. And if don’t prioritise your bone health, you will soon know about and, trust us, it won’t be fun. Without the correct nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle habits, your bones will become weak, brittle, and more prone to breakages. At its worst, poor bone health can result in the bones becoming so thin, they lose their strength and are more vulnerable to fracturing and breaking. Painful bone fractures can happen in the midst of everyday movements, like sneezing or bending over. The most common low-density bone fractures occur in the spine, hip, and wrist. Hip fractures can be especially problematic to heal.
How can I support my bone health?
The good news is that it’s never too early to start building a body for life. And though you can’t change your family history of poor bone health and gender (women are more likely to develop bone conditions thanks to life expectancy and hormonal fluctuations), you can improve other areas of your life that typically affect bone health.
You can bolster healthy bones by…
Eating enough calcium and vitamin D. Calcium-rich foods include low-fat dairy, green leafy veggie, salmon, sardines, and calcium-fortified foods and beverages. Oily fish (salmon, trout, mackerel, and herring), lamb’s liver, some pork products, and eggs, mushrooms, other fortified foods including orange juice, breads, and milk are brilliant sources of vitamin D. Remember, the sun is a potent source of vitamin D, too. Worried about your intake? Adding a vitamin D supplement (10mcg) to your diet is always a smart way to plug any nutritional gaps. Learn more about bone-bolstering nutrition.
Maintaining a healthy weight – don’t drop into a calorie deficit.
Following a regular weight-bearing exercise programme – walking, jogging, hiking, and tennis are brilliant choices. Discover how exercise can support bone health.
Stubbing out smoking. Learn why smoking wreaks havoc with your bones.
Avoiding drinking to excess
NHS.UK. (2019). Osteoporosis. Available online: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/osteoporosis [Accessed 16 Apr. 2019].
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Olivia Salter has always been an avid health nut. After graduating from the University of Bristol, she began working for a nutritional consultancy where she discovered her passion for all things wellness-related. There, she executed much of the company’s content marketing strategy and found her niche in health writing, publishing articles in Women’s Health, Mind Body Green, Thrive and Psychologies.