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How Diet & Exercise Affect the Skeletal System

By Kate Richey ; Updated August 14, 2017

Your diet and exercise level can have a substantial effect on your skeletal system. A poor diet and lack of exercise can compromise the skeletal system due to inadequate nutrients and increased stress due to excess weight. A balanced diet built around nutritious foods and a consistent fitness routine can help to strengthen the skeletal system and reduce stress caused by excess weight.

Skeleton Keys

The bones that comprise your skeletal system are made largely of collagen and calcium. This combination makes bones strong and slightly flexible as a means to avoid injury and support your weight through functional movement. Throughout your lifetime, your skeletal system is constantly replacing old bone cells with new ones in a process known as remodeling. Remodeling ensures the integrity of your skeletal system as well as the maintenance of mineral levels.

The Calcium Effect

The food you eat on a daily basis plays an important role in how well your body operates. For example, your muscles require calcium to facilitate muscle contractions. If you don't consume adequate amounts of calcium, your heartbeat can become erratic and you can experience muscle cramping or twitching. Foods that are high in calcium, such as dairy, dark green leafy vegetables or fortified foods, contribute to your available calcium levels. If there is not adequate calcium, your bones will release calcium for use, which, over time, weakens them.

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Weight Limit

For healthy bones, it's also important not to eat too much. Your skeletal system carries your body weight; carrying excess weight stresses the joints. Over time, this can have a degenerative effect on your joints, leading to cartilage damage or other bone injuries. To maintain a healthy weight, eat more whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy products and fresh fruits and vegetables. Aim to participate in a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity, cardiovascular exercise per week, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Bone Building Exercise

Weight-bearing activities, such as walking, running, jumping and aerobics, improve bone density and help to maintain the strength of your skeletal system. This kind of exercise can be performed in the comfort of your own home, or you can opt to use the treadmill, steppers or other cardiovascular machines at the gym. Remember that extreme exercise routines can lead to bone injuries, such as stress fractures. Listen to your body and follow all guidelines set forth at the gym for using equipment.

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