How to keep your bones and joints healthy

How to keep your bones and joints healthy

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My name is Oscar Petersen, and I am a rower on the Danish National Team. As an athlete on a quest to qualify for the Paris Olympics, a crucial focus of mine is to keep my bones and joints healthy. If I forget to do so, I increase the risk of getting injured. An injury can force me out of the boat for several weeks and can ultimately cost me a proper shot at qualifying for the Olympics.

To avoid this scenario, I have implemented some steps into my weekly routine to make sure my bones and joints are at their best.

In this article, I will provide you with the most important tips that I believe will help you keep your bones and joints healthy.

Exercise regularly and mix up the sessions

A great way to ensure good bone health is to mix high-impact and low-impact sports sessions.

High-impact exercises are strength training introduced in sports involving jumping or running. These types of activities put a lot of force on your bones, which in turn helps stimulate bone formation.

Low-impact exercises such as swimming and biking are non-weight bearing, and therefore highly beneficial for improving cardiovascular health and fitness. Despite not directly contributing to stronger bone health, low-impact activities work in favor of dropping weight, which in turn reduces stress on the hips, knees, and ankles.

If you are battling joint issues, you should focus more on low-impact exercises due to the high amount of stress applied to the joints when doing high-impact exercises.

These theories are what I apply in my everyday training for the Olympics. Rowing is considered a low-impact exercise, which allows me to train for multiple hours each day. In combination with rowing, I like to do 2-3 strength sessions per week. These allow me to strengthen my bones and joints to reduce the risk of getting injured.

My piece of advice is to introduce both low-impact and high-impact exercises to your weekly training schedule. In this way, you work both your cardiovascular fitness and improve your bone and joint health.

Remember to stretch

Stretching is the step where most people tend to cut corners.
However, stretching is a great tool for keeping the joints healthy.
Stretching increases your range of motion, making you capable of better handling situations where your body must apply high forces in external positions.

Stretching is especially crucial during high-impact exercises, where joints and tendons are subject to a high volume of stress. This stress can increase the risk of both acute and overuse injuries. Stretching can help fight off these injuries by keeping your joints flexible and fit.

For me, range of motion is essential to perform at my highest level in rowing. During both training and competition, I must be able to perform in all conditions. In windy and stormy conditions, there is a higher risk of a bad stroke. During a bad stroke, I must apply pressure to the oar at an angle that differs from my normal stroke. In such situations, a flexible and relaxed body is preferred.

My advice is to include 10 minutes of stretching at the end of every workout. Keep each stretch for 30 seconds and do not focus too much on one part of the body.

Get your nutrition right

A crucial step to building healthy bones and joints is to get your nutrition right. The body needs the right building blocks to benefit from the stimulus on the bones and joints obtained by exercise and stretching
Most essential building blocks are covered in a healthy and diverse diet. However, adding supplements to your daily routines can help you make sure that you are covered.

In the following, I will list some of the vitamins and minerals essential for good bone and joints health.

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and thereby is essential to building healthy bones, as stated by the journal Nutrients. Vitamin D is produced when exposed to sunlight, which is not always possible depending on weather conditions. One should therefore consider getting Vitamin D from the diet, by eating fatty fish like salmon or mackerel, or by using supplements. The optimal combination of Vitamin D & K will prevent the loss of calcium from the bones.

Magnesium is an essential mineral for maintaining healthy bones. In accordance with the journal Biometals, magnesium plays a role in converting Vitamin D into the active form that promotes calcium uptake.
Magnesium is obtained from foods like dark chocolate, avocados, and nuts. Depending on the availability and accessibility of these foods, one can consider adding magnesium as a supplement to the daily diet.

Personal story

Being a rower, one of the more common injuries is rib stress fractures. Back in 2019, I was battling this injury and was forced out of the boat, doing most training on an indoor bike. Later, I was diagnosed with a vitamin D deficiency. Using supplements I adjusted my level of vitamin D, and have not been dealing with the injury since, touch wood.

My advice is to make sure to get your vitamins and minerals in a meal containing fats. Both vitamin D and K are fat-soluble and are therefore much better absorbed into your bloodstream when eating them with fats.

Ask your family doctor

Before adding new supplements to your diet, enlist your doctor’s help to identify any deficiencies and to make sure you stay within the recommended daily vitamin and mineral dosages.

If you are looking for supplements to boost your bone and joint health, go check out DESEJR®’s collection here.

¹ Department of Health, U., Services, H., Institutes of Health Osteoporosis, N. & Bone Diseases National Resource Center, R. Exercise for Your Bone Health.

² Vainionpää, A. et al. Effect of impact exercise and its intensity on bone geometry at weight-bearing tibia and femur. Bone 40, 604–611 (2007).

³ Olmedillas, H., González-Agüero, A., Moreno, L. A., Casajus, J. A. & Vicente-Rodríguez, G. Cycling and bone health: A systematic review. BMC Med. 10, 1–10 (2012).

⁴ Van Summeren, M. J. H. et al. The effect of menaquinone-7 (vitamin K2) supplementation on osteocalcin carboxylation in healthy prepubertal children. Br. J. Nutr. 102, 1171–1178 (2009).

⁵ Rondanelli, M. et al. An update on magnesium and bone health. Biometals 34, 715–736 (2021).

Li, Y. & Schellhorn, H. E. New developments and novel therapeutic perspectives for vitamin C. J. Nutr. 137, 2171–2184 (2007).

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