Window of Opportunity: The Importance of Building Strong Bones in Kids
by Samantha Herrera, DPT and Kelsea Brajkovich Schroeder, DPT
It's important for children to engage in regular physical activity not only to develop life-long, healthy living habits, but also because this is an important window of time to build optimal bone density. Bones are dynamic structures that are constantly rebuilding themselves through a balance between cells that create bone and cells that break down “old” bone. Up until 18-20 years of age, there are more cells that create bone than cells that break down bone. Yep, that’s right - at age 20, bones are at maximum density and will slowly decrease in density throughout the rest of life.
So how do you make sure that your child makes the most of this bone-building window? One of the ways that bone is stimulated to grow is through mechanical forces experienced by your child’s bones when they perform impact exercise or lift weights. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, running, jumping and climbing, are best for building bone density. While swimming and biking are great forms of exercise, these do not expose your child’s bones to the forces that stimulate increased bone density.
Research shows it doesn’t take a lot to get bone cells stimulated to grow - possibly only 20-40 ground contacts - but these cells are quickly desensitized and take around 8-24 hours to return to productive responsiveness. This means that creating a routine in which your child jumps, stomps, runs, etc. for a few minutes each morning and/or a few minutes each early evening is the most effective way to take advantage of their bone-building window!
Below are some ideas for activities that you can do daily to stimulate your child’s bones to grow stronger.
Stompy the Bear Dance
Jumping for Strong Bones
10 x Jumping Jacks
10 x Scissor Jacks
10 x Line jumps: forward and back with two legs, with the right leg, with the left leg; side to side with two legs, with the right leg, with the left leg
Find a long hallway or go back and forth across the room performing each walk for a minute.
Crab Walk: Keep your bottom off the ground!
Bear Walk: Crawl using your feet and your hands. Try moving in all directions!
Seal Walk: If you're having trouble sliding, wear slippery socks or microfiber towels on hard floor or try using paper plates to slide better on carpet.
Email us with any additional questions about physical activity and helping your kids build strong bones!
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