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Boost Your Child's Bone Health

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By Shaun Dreisbach

Here's something easy for once: Boost your kid's bone health just by letting him run loose on the playground!

British researchers recently found that children who get regular, vigorous exercise have stronger bones-particularly hip bones-than those who aren't as active. And that sets them up for a lifetime of better health and a lowered risk of breaks and osteoporosis. “Now's a good time to build up strong bones, but many kids today--especially girls--aren't building as much as they should and keeping it strong,” says Michael Hunt, D.O., a pediatrician in St. Louis and spokesperson for the American Osteopathic Association.

So exactly what types of exercise qualify as “vigorous”-and how much does your kid need each day to get the bone-building benefit? According to Dr. Hunt, children should get at least an hour a day of exercise, and the good news is it doesn't have to be anything formal or structured, like sports. “The things that have been shown to build bone also happen to be typical kid-play fun-kicking a ball around, riding a bike, running, jumping, playing hide-and-seek, or having wheelbarrow races,” he explains. In fact, any weight-bearing activity that also gets your child's heart rate up qualifies.

So just encouraging your kiddo to do what comes naturally-along with serving up plenty of calcium--and vitamin D-rich foods--is all you really need to do to foster good bone health.

- From Parenting's November issue

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