Exercise and Food for Healthy Bones

By Human Performance Resources by CHAMP at the Uniformed Services UniversityAugust 22, 2023

Exercise and Food for Healthy Bones
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

The new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) has been rolled out, and it sure looks different from the old PT test. The new exercises challenge and improve muscle strength and endurance in a more functional way. Muscle conditioning is vital for combat readiness, performance optimization and activities of daily living.

Did you know that the stress exerted on muscles during strength training—which ultimately makes them stronger—also stresses bone? The result is stronger, denser bones.

Calcium, vitamin D and other nutrients in foods such as milk play a pivotal part in bone health, too. Although not consuming enough of these nutrients can cause low bone formation, getting enough of them doesn’t guarantee they’ll be absorbed and used. For these key nutrients to be effective, your intestinal environment (gut microbiome) must be healthy. A lot of good bacteria feed a healthy gut microbiome. Foods that contribute to these good bacteria include:

• Oatmeal • Brown rice • Strawberries • Blueberries • Pears • Lentils

• Peas        • Soybeans    • Broccoli        • Yogurt         • Kefir • Kimchi

Why is bone health so important? Just like we lose muscle mass as we age, bone strength starts to decline earlier than you might imagine, slipping about 1 percent per year after age 40. Over 10 million Americans have osteoporosis (weak and porous bones), and another 43 million are at risk of it. What’s more, the Bone Health and Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that one in two women and one in four men older than 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis. And veterans are more prone to this condition than civilians.

You may think, I’ve got years until I have to worry about that! Sadly, though, more and more younger people are at risk of developing osteoporosis due to low intake of dairy products (a trend since the 1970s), less physical activity or even too much physical activity, which can result in low levels of important hormones that are needed to support bone health.

You can protect your bones by strength training two or three times each week, getting enough calories from foods that contain calcium, vitamin D and other essential nutrients, and consuming healthy-bacteria-producing foods. To learn more about wellness, visit HPRC-online.org. Also, look for our Go for Green® section to find out about nutritious, performance-boosting choices available at dining facilities.