The spine is the center of the body. It protects the central nervous system, allowing all areas of the body to communicate with the brain; but what protects the spine? Muscles along the back support the spine, giving it strength and keeping it in alignment. If the muscles are weak or lack nutrition, the spine will eventually feel the effects. Feeding your body proper nutrition and strengthening your muscles will help keep your spine healthy and happy.
- Calcium – Everybody knows that calcium is critical to bone health, but what about muscles? Calcium does more than just keep bones healthy and strong; it’s also necessary for muscles to work properly. Adults, depending on their age, need to consume anywhere from 1000 mg to 1200 mg of calcium a day. To make sure you’re getting enough, try eating dairy, spinach, kale, collards, and soy.
- Vitamin D3 – Vitamin D3 goes hand in hand with calcium. In order for the body to properly absorb calcium, it must have sufficient vitamin D3. This vitamin is also critical for proper muscle contraction. Adults under the age of 71 need to consume 600 IUs per day, while those over 71 need 800 IUs. Eat fatty fish, like tuna or salmon, egg yolks, cheese, or juices that are fortified with vitamin D.
- Vitamin C – Most people think of vitamin C as a tool to fight illness, but it also plays a critical role in creating the protein for forming ligaments and tendons and is crucial for maintaining cartilage and bones. Adults should get anywhere from 75 mg to 90 mg per day. If too much vitamin C is consumed, the excess will be expelled in the urine. Vitamin C is found in cantaloupe, citrus fruit, kiwi, mangos, papaya, pineapple, and berries.
- Copper – Copper is keeps the bones healthy. Fortunately, a little goes a long way, with adults needing to consume only 900 mcg a day. Copper is found in shellfish, whole grains, nuts, potatoes, and organ meats.
- Magnesium – Magnesium is essential to both muscle and bone health. It also aids in muscle contraction, causing muscle cramps if the body is lacking the mineral. Sources of magnesium include spinach, kale, collards, beet tops, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Adults should consume 300 to 400 mg of magnesium per day. Taking the magnesium in through your food is recommended. Don’t take supplements unless your doctor recommends it.
Having a strong core means more than eating right. It includes strengthening the muscles that support the spine. Try doing these easy exercises to strengthen your core.
- The bridge – Lie on your back with your knees bent and your arms lying flat. Lift your pelvis off the floor, pushing your feet into the floor and creating a “bridge.” Hold the position for 10 seconds before slowly lowering your pelvis back to the floor one vertebrae at a time. Do five repetitions.
- Kneeling extension – Start out on all fours (kneeling with your hands planted on the ground). Keep your core tight as you slowly raise your right arm and left leg, extending both out straight. Hold for 10 seconds and then lower back into kneeling position. Raise your left arm and right leg and hold for 10 seconds. Do three sets.
- The plank – Get into position for a push-up. Rather than lowering and raising, though, you remain in place, keeping your core tight. Hold the position for 10 seconds. Relax and then repeat. Do this five times.
Keeping your entire body healthy will help ensure that your spine remains healthy as you go through life. Exercise regularly to strengthen the muscles that support and protect the spine while feeding your body the nutrients it needs to remain strong.