Muscle Mass & Bone Density: To be a Strong Adult

Muscle Mass & Bone Density: To be a Strong Adult

Did you know that a person’s bone density peaks in their twenties? Before the age of thirty you will have reached the maximum amount of bone you can achieve. Until the age of 50 years bone density remains stable. After that your bones start losing their strength1.

The same applies to your muscles. By the age of thirty your muscle mass has peaked and it becomes a lot more difficult to maintain your muscle mass and strength. In fact research shows that you can lose between 3% and 8% per decade. And it gets faster as you get older2.

Poor musculoskeletal health is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. There are over one hundred and fifty conditions related to unhealthy bones and muscles. They are characterized by pain and reduced flexibility, agility and poor mobility3. The prevention of these conditions begins in childhood and becomes even more important during the teenage years.


The Relationship Between Bone and Muscle

Made from very different materials, bones and muscles rely on each other to reach their full potential4. A strong bone structure provides the framework to which the muscles are attached. Contracting and relaxing muscles allow you to move all parts of your body.

Doing weight bearing exercise places strain on the muscles and makes them stronger. It also places strain on the bones and makes them stronger too4. It’s a perfect symbiotic relationship.


Maximum Bone and Muscle Strength Is Achieved In Your Twenties

A lower bone mass in your teens means that you are unlikely to reach your full bone mass potential in your twenties. It puts you at a greater risk of developing osteoporosis later in life5.

Building and maintaining healthy muscles from childhood through to your twenties means that you will have less chance of becoming obese; you will have stronger bones and healthier joints6. All in all, Your quality of life as an adult is improved.


3 Ways to Ensure Healthy Bones In Adolescence

Considering how important the skeleton is to hold us upright and allow us to move about, laying a solid foundation of bone health during adolescence is vital. How do we achieve optimal bone mineral density?



#1 – Eat a diet rich in calcium

Calcium is the main component of bone. An inadequate intake of calcium results in poor bone mineralization and low bone density which increases the risk of fractures and osteoporosis. Research consistently shows that calcium in adequate amounts is essential for building strong, healthy bones7. Calcium is found in dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables and almonds.

#2 –  Get enough Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for optimal calcium absorption and bone mineralization. The best source of vitamin D is exposing the skin to the sun. There are very few food sources of Vitamin D. It is found in oily fish, eggs and dairy products8. Did you know that if you place mushrooms in the sun for fifteen minutes, the Vitamin D level increases9?

#3 – Exercise daily

Bones are living structures. They adapt to meet the needs placed on them by environmental stresses such as exercise. Spending too much time on the couch playing video games can result in weaker bones. Daily exercise supports bone growth. The exercise your teen does must include vigorous physical activity, incorporating impact exercises and resistance training at least twice per week10.

While these three factors ensure healthy bone growth, it is also important to avoid behaviours that may harm the bones. These include strict weight loss diets, smoking and drinking alcohol11.


3 Ways to Ensure Healthy Muscles In Teenagers

Rather than playing a game of catchup as an adult, help your teen to build strong, healthy muscles now. Sarcopenia, or loss of muscle, begins at about the age of thirty. It becomes a lot more difficult to build muscle mass and improve muscle strength as an adult. How do you build muscle mass and strength?

#1 – Balanced diet

A healthy balanced diet is as important for muscle growth as it is for general health. Protein provides amino acids which are the building blocks of muscle. Meeting your teen’s protein requirements goes a long way to ensuring healthy muscles. But, protein requirements are relatively small12. The goal is 3 servings of protein-rich foods per day – meat, fish, chicken, cheese, legumes or nuts.

Remember that muscles need energy in the form of glucose to work. So carbohydrate foods are also important to support muscle growth12. Include carbs in the form of whole grains, potatoes and fruit and vegetables.

#2 – Physical exercise

It is recommended that teenagers get at least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity per day for general health. Most of the exercise should be aerobic exercise such as swimming or running. To boost muscle mass and strength they should also include muscle and bone strengthening, high impact and resistance training three times per week13.



#3 – Sleep

You may wonder what sleep has to do with healthy muscles. But, without sleep, muscles will not grow. During deep sleep the all-important muscle-building growth hormone is released. This combined with the fact that your muscles are relaxed while you are sleeping, allows your muscles to be restored overnight14.



Strong, healthy muscles and bones as teenagers ensure strong, healthy muscles and bones as adults. Incorporating healthy lifestyle factors that support your teen’s muscles and bones increases the chance that your child will be a contributing member of society well into old age. Help them avoid conditions such as osteoporosis and joint degeneration by encouraging them to eat well and engage in regular physical activity.



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  9. Laird E, Ward M, McSorley E, Strain J, Wallace J. Vitamin D and Bone Health; Potential Mechanisms. Nutrients. 2010;2(7):693-724.
  10. Cardwell G, Bornman J, James A, Black L. A Review of Mushrooms as a Potential Source of Dietary Vitamin D. Nutrients. 2018;10(10):1498.
  11. Min S, Oh T, Kim S, Cho J, Chung H, Park D et al. Position Statement: Exercise Guidelines to Increase Peak Bone Mass in Adolescents. Exercise Science. 2020;29(1):10-23.
  12. Lucas R, Fraga S, Ramos E, Barros H. Early Initiation of Smoking and Alcohol Drinking as a Predictor of Lower Forearm Bone Mineral Density in Late Adolescence: A Cohort Study in Girls. PLoS ONE. 2012;7(10):e46940.
  13. 4 Keys to Strength Building and Muscle Mass [Internet]. 2021 [cited 3 September 2021]. Available from:
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  15. Van Cauter E, Plat L. Physiology of growth hormone secretion during sleep. The Journal of Pediatrics. 1996;128(5):S32-S37.
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