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Published May 21, 2010, 12:00 AM

Help prevent osteoporosis with exercise

“Next we’ll do the toe-touch leap,” my 6-year-old daughter announced. She was acting as my personal trainer on a recent walk around our neighborhood. “What’s the toe-touch leap?” I asked.

By: Julie Garden-Robinson, INFORUM

“Next we’ll do the toe-touch leap,” my 6-year-old daughter announced. She was acting as my personal trainer on a recent walk around our neighborhood.

“What’s the toe-touch leap?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I just made it up. Watch this,” she said as she performed a maneuver for me to copy.

“I don’t think I did very well.” She nodded in approval, but maybe a bit sympathetically.

“Now run down to that driveway and turn around. I’ll run and jump into your arms. You lift me up,” she directed.

My other kids never put me through an exercise regimen like this, I thought as I lifted my speedy daughter into the air.

“Next we’ll jog to that driveway. I think we’d better do some cool-down so your heart rate slows down,” she said.

We proceeded to walk, jog, run and occasionally leap around the neighborhood.

She was sharing what she learned in dance class and also in gym class at school.

I hope no one caught this on video.

“Do you know that all this activity is good for our bones? We’re helping prevent osteoporosis. That’s a disease that leads to weak bones,” I commented.

“Exercise is good for our heart, too. Talking makes the time go faster, doesn’t it, Mom?” she noted before leaping over a puddle and waiting for me to do the same.

May is National Osteoporosis Awareness Month. Weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, jogging and dancing, for a total of 30 minutes each day may stop bone loss and also may increase bone density.

Besides physical activity, a healthful diet and supplements when needed can help build strong bones. Although calcium and vitamin D probably are the most important, other nutrients also play a role in bone health.

Calcium provides strength to our bone framework, and vitamin D helps our body use the calcium. Individuals between the ages of 19 and 50 need 1,000 milligrams of calcium each day, while those over the age of 50 need at least 1,200 mg each day. Adolescents need about 1,300 mg of calcium per day, while younger children need 400 to 800 mg.

Dairy products, such as milk and yogurt, are excellent sources of calcium. A cup of milk contains about 300 mg of calcium. Cheese, sardines, spinach, broccoli and fortified foods, such as cereal and juice, also provide calcium.

On Nutrition Facts labels, calcium content is shown as a percent of the daily value (%DV). To quickly learn the number of milligrams of calcium per serving, add a zero to the %DV number. For example, a food with 20 percent of the daily value provides 200 mg of calcium.

Many nutrition experts recommend that we get at least 1,000 International Units.

(IU) of vitamin D daily, which is higher than the current national recommendation. Our body can make vitamin D as a result of sunlight on our skin.

Milk provides about 115 IU of vitamin D per cup. Salmon and tuna provide some vitamin D.

With the long winters in the Midwest and the few foods that are good sources, many people are short on vitamin D. Talk to your health-care provider about a vitamin D amount that is right for you.

Other nutrients, such as magnesium, boron and zinc, play a role in building and maintaining strong bones. Magnesium is found in halibut, almonds, spinach and beans. Boron is found in dates, raisins, prunes, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts and apples. Zinc is found in oysters, beef, pork, baked beans and yogurt.

Vitamin K also is important for bone health. Leafy greens, such as kale, broccoli and spinach, provide vitamin K, calcium and many other nutrients that are important for bone health. If you are on Coumadin or another blood-thinning medication, remember that maintaining a consistent intake of vitamin K-rich foods, such as leafy greens, is important.

Bottom line: Aim for variety in your diet and get regular physical activity for bone and overall health. Here’s a colorful, calcium-rich recipe. For more information about osteoporosis, visit the website of the National Osteoporosis Foundation at www.nof.org.


Veggie Pizza

¾ cup pizza sauce

1 large ready-made Italian pizza shell

1 cup chopped broccoli

1 cup shredded carrots

½ cup sliced red or green bell pepper

5 ounces low-fat shredded mozzarella cheese

Oregano (if desired)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Spoon pizza sauce on pizza shell. Put pizza shell on a cookie sheet. Arrange vegetables over sauce. Sprinkle on the cheese. Sprinkle with oregano if desired. Bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool about three minutes.

Cut into eight slices. Each slice has 90 calories, 4.5 grams (g) of fat and 150 mg of calcium.


Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.

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