Childhood is a critical time for developing strong, healthy bones. A balance between exercise, a healthy diet, and adequate levels of calcium and vitamin D will go a long way in helping a child build the kind of strong bones they will need later in life to help fight against osteoporosis.
If you want strong bones, you have to use them. Bones grow in both size and strength during childhood, and one major contributor to bone development is exercise. Children should have at least 35 to 60 minutes of exercise each day. The bone mass gained through physical activity during childhood helps determine how healthy bones will be throughout their life.
Weight bearing exercise is the best type of exercise for growing bones. Bone is living tissue, and weight bearing activity causes bones to build more cells and become strong. Bone constantly reforms due to everyday stress placed upon it, and physical activities work bones and muscles against gravity.
Exercises for bone health: Walking, tennis, running, volleyball, hiking, ice hockey/field hockey, dancing, skiing, soccer, skateboarding, gymnastics, in-line skating, basketball, lifting weights, jumping ropes, aerobics.
Developing dietary habits that support bone health should start at an early age. Instilling healthy lifestyle habits in young children will go a long way in protecting them from osteoporosis in the future. Foods that are great for building strong bones include: Milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, mozzarella, tofu, orange juice, and salmon. Plants high in bone-protective antioxidants such as kale, broccoli, and parsley will also help create healthy bones during childhood.
Calcium and Vitamin D Supplements
Along with a balanced diet, Calcium and D vitamins can be taken to help supplement a child’s nutrient intake. Vitamin D is calcium’s best friend, and should be consumed with calcium whenever possible to increase the body’s absorption of calcium. Pediatric orthopedist, Dr. Justin Roth, recommends the following dosages of calcium and D3 for specific age groups.
Age 14 years and older:
Elemental Calcium >1,200 mg per day in divided dosage.
Vitamin D3 > 4,000 IU per day in divided dosage.
- If child is able to swallow pills, Dr. Roth recommends calcium citrate (Citracal + D3 “Maximum” 2 tablets twice daily or Citracal + D3 “petites” 3 tablets twice daily) with additional Vitamin D3 (Kirkland) 2000 IU twice daily.
- If child is unable to swallow pills, Dr. Roth recommends Tricalcium Phosphate + D3 Gummies (Citracal, L’il Critters) 2-3 tablets twice daily with additional Vitamin D3 2000 IU twice daily.
Age 8 to 13 years:
Elemental Calcium 1,000 mg per day in divided dosage.
Vitamin D3 1,000 IU/day in divided dosage.
- Roth recommends Tricalcium Phosphate + D3 gummies (Citracal, L’il Critters) 2 tablets twice daily.
Under age 8 years:
Elemental Calcium 500 mg per day in divided dosage.
Vitamin D3 500 IU per day in divided dosage.
- Roth recommends Tricalcium Phosphate + D3 gummies (Citracal, L’il Critters) 1 tablet twice daily.