Have you ever given much thought to your bones? They're a vital part of your body's structure and as with every other aspect of your physical health, bone health must be considered.
Other than being the framework for your body and a protective cage for your organs, we explore the role bones play in overall health and wellbeing. Your bones store and distribute essential minerals like phosphorous and calcium, and they produce blood cells in the red marrow at the spongy centre of your bones.
You may remember the song about the positioning of bones in your body (the thigh bone's connected to the hip bone . . .). When you are a child, your body produces more bone faster than it can break it down, and this is what produces bone mass. By the time you're 30, you've reached your peak bone mass. After that, your body continues to build and break down bone, but there's more bone mass lost than gained. Osteoporosis is determined by how much bone mass you've gained by that time and how quickly you lose it afterwards.
BUILD THE STORE
While your bone mass is affected by genetics, certain healthy practices and supplements will make sure your body has the right tools to keep your bone mass store in good shape.
*Calcium - this is a building block for your bones. It also helps your blood clot, helps muscles contract and nerves to send messages. Get your calcium from dairy products, broccoli, kale, canned salmon with bones, sardines and soy products. It's vital to remember that Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium - in fact, vitamin D increases calcium absorption by 30-40%.
*Vitamin K - this isn't a vitamin that's commonly spoken about, but it's essential to your body, helping blood to clot or coagulate effectively. It also plays a role in bone health. Vitamin K is produced by the bacteria in your intestines and can be found in leafy green food. If you have diminished levels of gut bacteria (from using antibiotics or an unsupportive diet) this may have affected your vitamin K levels. In addition to leafy greens, get vitamin K from beef, liver, green tea, and asparagus. Note: Freezing might affect Vitamin K levels, but cooking won't.
*Vitamin D - your body needs this to absorb calcium. Get your daily dose from the sun, oily fish and egg yolks.
*Magnesium - keeps calcium dissolved in the blood. It's necessary to convert vitamin D into its active form so that it can mobilise calcium absorption.
*Get active - weight bearing exercises help build strong bones and slow bone loss.
*Behave - stay away from smoking and avoid drinking more than two alcoholic drinks per day.
So many people spend an inordinate amount of time sitting, in front of a desk, in a car, on the couch in front of the television. Not having a good posture affects your core strength and can lead to back pain, something that affects a massive percentage of people world-wide. Your body can only tolerate sitting in one position for 20 minutes. So, if you are stuck on a chair all day, make sure you get up and stretch or walk around at least every 20 minutes. When you slouch or slump, so does your spine and this can negatively affect your circulation. It also squashes your lungs, which can affect your breathing and cause fatigue.
*Neck: Hold your head high and straight without tilting it forward or to the side. Your ears should be in line with the middle of your shoulders.
*Shoulders: Pull your shoulder blades back and down to lift your breastbone.
*Abdomen: Tuck your abdomen in, but be aware not to tilt your pelvis forward or backward.
*Knees: Keep your knees very slightly bent and shoulder-width apart.
*Screen height: your computer screen should sit directly in front of you, about an arm's length away (46-71cm). The top of your screen should be a bit lower than your eye level, so you are looking down. Ensure that there is minimal glare on your screen (switch lights off and close curtains or blinds if necessary).
*Wrist positioning: Keep your writs in a natural, straight position. Avoid bending them up or down, or to the side.
*Posture: sit up straight with your thighs horizontal and your knees the same level as your hips.
*Chair: if your feet don't rest comfortably on the floor and your hips and knees are out of level, adjust the height of your chair. To give your lower back a bit more support, use a small cushion in the small of your back.
*Desk: depending on how tall you are, your desk should be up to 86cm high. An ideal depth is 48cm and 76cm wide. Leave the underneath of your desk uncluttered so there is plenty of room for your legs, thighs and knees.
Quick 5 for better posture
These five exercises will help improve your posture and keep you mindful of what your body is doing. They're really simple and don't require a lot of space, so you can easily do them at the office.
1. Shoulder Rolls: Stand or sit in a comfortable position. Inhale and raise your shoulders and shoulder blades to your ears. Exhale and pull your shoulder blades down and together. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
2. Chest Release: Raise your arms straight out to just below shoulder height with palms facing forward. Slowly rotate both hands at the wrists so your fingers point slightly behind you as you exhale. Take three to five breaths.
3. Pyramid: From a standing position, step your left foot back so it rests fully on the floor. Square your hips. With your legs straight, clasp your forearms behind your back. Exhale and lean forward from your hips (don't round your spine). Take three to five breaths and rise. Switch sides.
4. Chair Pose: Stand and raise your arms in front to shoulder height. Contract your arm muscles. Exhale as you bend your knees (no more than 90 degrees) and keep them over your toes. Take two breaths; stand. Repeat three times.
5. Standing Side Bend: Standing tall, touch your left hand to the side of your head. Ground both feet and guide your head to the right until you feel a stretch along the left side of your body and shoulder. Take three to five breaths. Switch sides.
BREAKS AND FRACTURES
A broken or fractured bone can seriously slow you down, but your body will heal itself. Give it as much help as you can though, to speed up the process. Here are our top tips for naturally enhancing your body's ability to recover after a break or fracture:
*Supplement: the content of bone is roughly 70% mineral by weight - calcium, magnesium, silicon, zinc, phosphorus and others. To heal, your body is going to draw the necessary minerals from other places, so supplementing will help give it a boost. Vitamins C, D and K are also important to supplement with.
*Protein: You'll need a boost of protein to help your bone heal. Stock up on plant-based protein by including food like almonds, quinoa, soy and lentils to avoid creating an acidic environment in your body, which may occur with the increase of animal protein in your diet.
*Antioxidants: Ruptured tissue generates a large amount of free radicals which can overwhelm the body's antioxidant defense mechanisms. This means that adding antioxidants like Vitamins E and C, as well as lycopene and alpha-lipoic acid can help. Get these from berries, leafy greens or a supplement.
*Pain: try to avoid aspirin and ibuprofen. These are antiinflammatory, but your body's response to injury is inflammation. Anti-inflammatory medicines can impede your body's healing process. If there is a lot of pain, try quercetin, which works together with Vitamin C to reduce pain. Also, omega-3 can help reduce inflammation in a way that doesn't affect the body's natural healing process.
*Exercise: It sounds obvious, but exercise increases your circulation, which in turn helps the body heal. Avoiding putting strain on your break or facture, stimulate circulation in your body, specifically close to the area of your injury. For example, if your forearm has a break, move your hands and fingers, as well as your shoulder and elbow joints.