Osteoporosis, the disease that causes bones to become less dense and more prone to fractures, has been called “a childhood disease with old age consequences,” because the bone mass attained in childhood and adolescence is an important determinant of lifelong skeletal health.
Most parents don't consider their children's skeletal systems when they consider their children's health. However, developing good dietary and lifestyle habits in infancy is essential for reducing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures in adulthood. The health habits your kids are forming now can literally make, or break, their bones as they age.
Why does bone growth in childhood matter so much?
As children grow, their bones act as their bodies’ main support and framework. Just like everything else in the human body, bones also change, and the living tissue constantly adds fresh bones to replace the old ones. This particular process is considerably more prominent during childhood and adolescence, where girls reach the peak of their bone density and mass by the time they’re 18 and boys by the time they’re 20. After we hit this particular point in life, the process starts to slow down and slowly reverse as we age, meaning that it gets more and more challenging for our bone tissue to renew and replace itself. This is precisely why the key to ensuring your children have strong bones is to act during the prime time of their childhood and teenage years.
How Can We Help Our Children's Bones Grow Stronger?
The good news for parents is that caring for their children's bones isn't all that different from the other healthy habits and behaviours they want to inculcate and maintain for normal development, despite the fact that children may be fussy.
Of course, being good role models for their children is essential for every parent who wants to instil a certain value in their offspring. Children may or may not seem interested in the mundane routines of adults, but you can be certain that they are always observing you and taking cues from your every move, for better or for worse.
Your children may find lots of bone and joint vitamins disguised as sweets, but the most important elements in maintaining strong bones throughout life are regular exercise and a healthy diet. Children, for instance, need to ensure they get sufficient quantities of calcium and vitamin D from the foods they eat.
Are your kids getting enough calcium?
Eating for healthy bones means getting plenty of foods that are rich in calcium and vitamin D. Most kids do not get enough calcium in their diets to help ensure optimal peak bone mass
Calcium is found in many foods, but the most common source is milk and other dairy products. Drinking one 250 ml glass of milk provides 300 milligrams (mg) of calcium, which is about one-third of the recommended intake for younger children and about one-fourth of the recommended intake for teens. In addition, milk supplies other minerals and vitamins needed by the body.
Many parents will be faced with the fact that their kids may not like milk. This is where you can try some tricks to make the drink more appealing to them, such as adding some chocolate to it. Also, don’t forget other tasty dairy treats that are also rich in calcium, like fruit yogurts and all kinds of cheese (including cream cheese). Of course, dairy is not the only food group that’s a great source of calcium. Consider the following foods and drinks as well:
Sardines and salmon
Whole wheat and white bread
Corn and flour tortillas
Tofu, soy, and soy-based drinks
Kale and broccoli
Chocolate pudding and vanilla ice cream, made with milk
In What Way Is Physical Activity Help Bone?
You’re probably already aware that physical activity strengthens muscles. That’s not all – it also strengthens bones. All kinds of physical activity will prove to be beneficial and healthy for growing kids one way or the other.
Thus, participation in organised sports is beneficial for a person's health, motor skills, bone density, and social development as a whole. Contrarily, although sports like cycling and swimming are fantastic for muscle development, they aren't the best option for exercise when it comes to boosting bone mass and density. Weightlifting and other forms of resistance training are excellent for strengthening bones, although they could be more appropriate for adolescents. The so-called weight-bearing exercises are the ideal kind of exercise for youngsters to engage in to maintain their bones healthy. such as:
Running, hiking, dancing, and walking
Gymnastics and aerobics
Soccer, tennis, volleyball, and basketball
Skiing and skating
Jumping rope and skateboarding
In this increasingly sedentary digital era, it may be difficult for parents to ensure their children receive enough exercise. It's also not unusual for teenagers to become too preoccupied with their weight and to overtrain as a consequence, taking things to an extreme opposite of what they were like as younger children. Be there for your them and provide them with the facts about how much activity they need if they want to be in shape or reduce weight. Prepare foods that will help them gain muscle and speed up their metabolism rather than cause them to lose weight. Extreme dieting, excessive exercise, or just being underweight for one's height may all weaken the skeleton, and this is particularly true for women, whose bodies may stop producing enough estrogen to maintain proper bone health.
Children who learn good eating and exercise habits by their preteen years are more likely to carry these habits with them for the rest of their lives.