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Protect Yourself From Winter By Building Better Bones

Dec 17, 2014 10:29AM ● Published by Victoria Pipas

The last thing on your mind this winter is probably bone health but you’ll need strong bones to protect your body from the harsh realities of winter, especially as you age. Whether you’re diligently clearing the driveway or blithely cutting figure 8’s on the town rink, you can be standing one minute and on the ground the next. Here are five bone-strengthening habits to incorporate in your healthy and active lifestyle.

1. Drink Up: Milk, that is. Milk and other dairy products harbor a wealth of calcium, which supports bone and tooth development. Enjoy yogurt for breakfast, cheese on your sandwich for lunch, and a tall glass of milk with a cookie for a late-night snack. Concerned about calories? Choose low-fat varieties for your dairy fix.  Also, read labels to find the varieties of yogurt and other dairy products with the highest amounts of calcium—and the most bang for your bone health. Santa would approve, as would your doctor.

2. Soak Up the Sun: Ideally, your body will produce the vitamin D it needs for calcium absorption when you are exposed to the sun for about 15 minutes a day. However, with icicles hanging from the roof, pulling up a lawn chair to enjoy ol’ Sol—if he puts in a brief appearance—is less than inviting. To get your daily sunshine vitamin, enjoy shrimp, eggs, fish, and fortified cereals and juices. Since fresh fish may be hard to come by in February, try an open-faced tuna melt instead. Mix drained, canned tuna with mayonnaise, chopped celery and onion, salt, and pepper, and spread it on a piece of multigrain toast. Top with a slice of Swiss cheese and broil for a minute or two: a perfect hit of calcium and vitamin D!

3. Pump Iron: Weight-bearing exercises will help support bone density, especially for people who are starting to develop symptoms of osteoporosis. Impact exercises include classic weight-bearing exercises like lifting dumbbells or bar weights. You might also try doing a plyometric circuit to strengthen the bones in your lower body; box jumps, tuck jumps, and even jumping rope are all great lower-body exercises. These cardio moves will also strengthen your core and help you break a sweat—it’s a win win! Finally, for the most full-body power workout, embrace snow shoveling. Squat as you reach to the ground, brace through your core and back to steady yourself on the push back up, and then engage your shoulders and forearms to toss the snow aside.

4. Say No to the Joe: It may be hard to let go of your morning buzz, whether it comes from coffee or caffeinated tea. But caffeine inhibits absorption of calcium. If you still want a hot beverage, try a cup of soothing peppermint tea to refresh you in the morning; you may find that this natural alternative gives you more energy throughout the day than the buzz and crash of caffeine. Better yet, have a frothy cup of steamed milk, topped with cocoa powder or cinnamon. Your bones will thank you!

5. Stay Well Padded for Winter: While obesity certainly poses many health risks, being underweight can also pose risks, especially to your bones. Maintain a BMI above 19 (but still below 25) to ensure that you have sufficient fat stores. Don’t fear the fat: Estrogen is stored in fat cells and is critical to bone formation.

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