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When to Reach for Calcium or Vitamin D Supplements

Even the healthiest diet may not provide all the nutrients you need for bone health. If you don't drink milk, for instance, you may be falling short on calcium. Multivitamins or single supplements of specific nutrients can help fill in the gaps.  But before you start taking any supplement, it's wise to talk to your doctor.

How to Strengthen Bones With Exercise

Along with a healthy diet, physical activity is crucial for strong bones. Most people think of exercise as a way to strengthen muscles. "But weight-bearing exercises also put stress on the bones attached to those muscles, stimulating them to rebuild themselves," says Dori Ricci, an exercise specialist in New Jersey.

The most effective exercises for strengthening bones are those that involve weights. Some exercises use the body's own weight, such as deep knee bends or push-ups. Others involve weights that are held, such as dumb-bells used for bicep curls. If you have broken a bone because of osteoporosis or are at risk of breaking a bone, you may need to avoid high-impact exercises such as jumping, stair climbing, or dancing, Instead do low impact exercises such as elliptical machines or stair step machines. Another way to exercise muscles is using stretch bands that provide resistance. Here's what to consider:

Develop a whole body routine. "Strength-building exercises benefit the specific muscles and bones being exercised," says Ricci. "So it’s important to develop a routine that involves all the major muscle groups. Each muscle group should be exercised at least once a week."

Start slowly. Strength-building exercises may sound daunting, especially if you haven't exercised before. "It's wise to start an exercise with no weight or very little weight and then slowly add heavier weights," says Ricci. In programs she develops for older clients, she divides muscle groups into three groups: legs and shoulders, back and biceps, and chest and triceps. She recommends at least 30 minutes of weight-bearing exercises for each group, once a week.

Stay with it. "A lot of people are anxious about weight-bearing exercises at first," says Ricci. "But once you get into it, you’ll find that you love feeling more stamina and greater strength."

Along the way, you'll also be building stronger bones.