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Get back your native bone strength

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Take a look around the next time you’re in a large crowd. You’ll see we’re in the middle of a tidal wave of weight gain. But though we’ve gained weight around our middles, we’ve lost it where we need it – in our bones. It’s time to start getting your skeletal strength back.

What’s to blame for the pathetic state of our bones? If you ask researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine they’ll tell you that it’s the supermarket and the couch.

Paleo people, who hunted and gathered their food before groceries and smartphones were invented, built their bones by walking, running, lifting and doing other physical chores that led the body to pack strengthening calcium in their bones.

And what do we do? What is our method of food acquisition? We drive to the grocery store. We drive to the drive through. We have someone else drive our food to our house for us.

For their study, the Hopkins researchers trucked around a portable X-ray machine and scanned ancient human bones in museums. They mostly checked out museums in Europe and tracked how our bones have become progressively wimpier during the past 30,000 years.

“By analyzing many arm and leg bone samples from throughout that time span, we found that European humans’ bones grew weaker gradually as they developed and adopted agriculture and settled down to a more sedentary lifestyle, and that moving into cities and other factors had little impact,” says researcher Christopher Ruff.

Only a certain subset of people today still have bones strong enough to compare to paleo bones – athletes. And only some of their bones may be sronger: “The difference in bone strength between a professional tennis player’s arms is about the same as that between us and Paleolithic humans,” says Ruff.

Ruff has found that for serious tennis players, the bones in the arm that holds the racquet can be up to 40 percent denser than the bone in the other arm.

The answer to this bone problem: Don’t sit on the couch and continue to let your bones thin – get out and do some exercise. Get to the gym and start slinging some weights around.

Or you can try what I’ve been doing this summer. I’ve left my motorized lawn mower and weed eater in the toolshed and resorted to pushing a rotary mower around the yard. I’ve also been chopping weeds with a big clippers. (Oh, and I still jog a few miles a day and lift weights – but I’m a pretty compulsive exerciser.)

Remember that your body is an adaptive biosystem that will respond to whatever you ask it to do. If you start doing a bit of jogging and jumping, and challenging your bones to get stronger in response, they will adapt to the challenge. So I may not get my bones back to paleo strength, but it sure beats the remote control workout.

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