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by Michele Tuttle

January 28, 2019

Swimmers should pay attention to their bone density

Swimming is one of the best all-around workouts out there. It works the cardiovascular system, it’s a form of resistance training, it can be high intensity or low intensity, it can build core strength, and it can even improve performance in other sports if used to cross train.

But one thing swimming doesn’t do well is promote bone density. Swimming places little stress on the skeleton, and bones require a bit of mechanical stress to encourage bone formation. The result is that swimmers need to do a bit more work to make sure their bones stay strong as they age.

While we build most of our bone density by age 25, we can certainly slow down bone loss at any age by doing a few simple things every day.

Consume enough calcium (preferably from food) throughout the day: Requirements vary but most adults over 19 need 1,000 milligrams a day, and women over 51 need 1,200 milligrams daily. Many kinds of dairy products provide calcium. Leafy greens such as kale and spinach also provide calcium, but they’re not as well absorbed.

Get enough vitamin D: Vitamin D is easily produced in skin from short amounts of sunlight exposure during warmer months. In the winter or for people who need to avoid the sun, vitamin D–fortified foods (e.g., milk), fatty fish (e.g., salmon, tuna), or vitamin supplements are the best sources. Adults require 600 international units per day until age 70, then the requirement increases to 800 international units.

Do some high-impact work in addition to swimming: Jump in place for five minutes each day either by hopping on both feet, doing jumping jacks, or using a jump rope. If balance is an issue, do jumps or water running in the shallow end of the pool!

Feed Your microbiome: What you feed your gut bacteria makes a difference in how you absorb calcium. Recent studies have shown that calcium absorption improves with the addition of polyphenols from foods such as dried plums and fibers from foods such as beans, onions, and kale (also a source of calcium), and whole grains.

Whenever possible, your diet should support your nutritional needs. Supplements are great, but our bodies are designed to absorb food. The two recipes below will encourage calcium intake as well as absorption.


Basic Bean Soup with Barley and Kale

Yield: approximately 10 one-cup servings

Nutrition (per serving): 160 calories, 6 grams protein, 4 grams fat, 6 grams fiber

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes


  • 2 Tbsp. olive or canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 large onion, chopped*
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped*
  • 2 large carrots, chopped*
  • 8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 can tomatoes, chopped (14.5 fl oz)
  • 2 cans (16 oz) white beans (navy or cannellini), drained
  • 2 cups chopped kale (frozen or fresh)
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt

*Some supermarkets sell this combination of chopped ingredients in the fresh section as mirepoix.


  • In a large saucepan on high, heat oil. Add garlic and sauté until golde.
  • Lower heat to medium adding carrots, celery, and onion. Cook until soft, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add beans, tomatoes, and kale. Add herbs and Worcestershire sauce.
  • Add stock and bring to a boil.
  • Lower heat, add barley, and cook until tender (about 30 minutes).
  • Season well with pepper and sprinkle with salt to taste.

Bone Builder Smoothie

Yield: approximately 1.5 cups or 2 servings

Nutrition (per serving): 186 calories, 9 grams protein, 2.5 grams fat, 3 grams fiber


  • 1 cup of vanilla flavored yogurt or kefir
  • 5 dried plums
  • 2 scoops of peanut butter powder
  • Optional: water or additional fluid to desired consistency.


  • Place all ingredients in high powered blender and mix until completely smooth.
  • If you like a frostier, milkshake-like smoothie, put 3-4 ice cubes in as well.


  • Health and Nutrition


  • Age