A Stronger You at Every Age

The best foods and moves for building up crucial bone and muscle—and protecting them down the road.

Josesph Montezinos
Unlike a sore throat or stomachache, which demand your attention, bones and muscles dont complain much unless something major—like a break or a pull—goes wrong. But these quiet, graceful supporters need regular TLC to help your body handle the load of daily life. Heres how to keep your bones and muscles strong and capable now and in the decades to come.

Your 20s and 30s: Bone Up.
Your bones have reached 90% of their peak mass by the time you reach your 20s; after age 30 or so, the best you can do is maintain the amount youve built up. So consider this your last chance for growth! Make sure your daily diet includes 1,000 milligrams of calcium and 600 IU of vitamin D, which aids calcium absorption. If you cant get the full dose from food, bridge the gap with a supplement, but realize that with calcium, more is not better. “New data shows that excessive calcium in supplement form increases the risk of kidney stones and possibly vascular diseases,” says Felicia Cosman, MD, clinical director of the National Osteoporosis Foundation. So consume no more than 2,500 milligrams a day, she says.

Build those biceps.
Your ability to build muscle also peaks in your 20s. And if you dont do any strength training, your muscle mass will start to decline—over the next 20 years, you could lose as much as half a pound of muscle per year. If youre pressed for time, you only really need to target eight major muscle groups: biceps, triceps, quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes, core (including lower back), and shoulders. You dont even have to hit them separately—just do a basic sequence of squats, lunges, push-ups, biceps curls, and triceps dips (two sets of 15 reps, three times a week).

Kick butts.
Besides the myriad other reasons why you shouldnt smoke—hello, cancer!—add bone health to the list. “Smoking reduces the efficiency of the bone-building cells,” Dr. Cosman says. “Plus, it lowers your bodys production of estrogen, which could cause you to go through menopause at a younger age and put you at risk for osteoporosis.”

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Dimity McDowell
Last Updated: December 17, 2010

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