Bone strength is a significant health concern. Weakness in bones and the insufficient bone mass associated with osteoporosis can lead to fractures, particularly fractures of the wrist, hip and spine. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 1.5 million bone fractures can be linked to osteoporosis each year.
Exercise — particularly strength-training and weight-bearing activities — is an effective preventive measure for osteoporosis. Dance is a form of weight-bearing activity because your legs must support the entire weight of your body. The National Osteoporosis Foundation reports that high-impact exercises, such as dance, not only keep bones strong but help build bone mass.
Physical activities like dance strengthen bones by causing small amounts of damage. Osteoclasts, a type of bone cell, rush to the area of stress and absorb the damaged portions of the bone. Another type of cell, the osteoblasts, then build new bone in the area. This new bone is stronger than the previously existing bone.
Without the proper amounts of vitamin D and calcium, the osteoblasts won’t be able to make stronger bones in response to your dancing. In order to reap the bone-strengthening benefits of dancing, consume between 800 and 1000 units of vitamin D each day so that your body can properly absorb calcium. Consume a total of 1,500 milligrams of calcium each day. Because your body cannot absorb more than 500 milligrams at a time, spread your calcium consumption over the course of your meals and snacks.
Young dancers, especially those who dance seriously, have additional concerns. Repetitive, high-impact movements — like jumping and pointe work — found in dance classes can lead to stress fractures if the students do not have adequate rest between classes. Dance students who follow restricted diets might not get the necessary nutrients to promote good bone health. For older adults, high-impact activities such as dance are contraindicated for individuals who are frail or who have balance problems. Additionally, if you have already experienced an osteoporosis-related bone fracture, avoid high-impact activities.
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