Your exercise routine—or lack thereofwavebreakmedia/Shutterstock
Exercise has multiple health benefits beyond weight loss, but the type of exercise that you are doing—or in some cases, not doing—may leave your bones brittle. First the good news: “Weight-bearing exercise helps increase bone density in the spine and elsewhere, and exercises that target the core can help strengthen the muscles surrounding the back and spine,” says David Pisetsky, MD, chief of rheumatology at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC. Aim for 30 to 40 minutes three to four times each week including weight-bearing and resistance exercises, the International Osteoporosis Foundation suggests. Now the bad news: Some popular exercises, including cycling and spin classes, may cause or worsen back and neck problems because certain bikes may force the rider to lean forward and down for long periods of time. Not exercising at all is another back-breaker over time, as it simply allows bone density to naturally decline with age. Don’t miss these 30 simple ways to boost your bones.
Your smoking habit
Pe3k/Shutterstock First, if you’re still smoking, immediately try one of these 23 ways to stop smoking and start on your path toward a healthier, smoke-free life. Because yes—in addition to all the other health ills associated with smoking—this habit can also damage your spine, says Nathaniel Tindel, MD, an orthopedic spine surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and the author of I’ve Got Your Back: The Truth About Spine Surgery, Straight From a Surgeon. “Most people don’t realize that smoking affects bone and can cause premature disc degeneration,” he says. Smoking inhibits circulation to the disc, dehydrating it and making it difficult for these discs to absorb the nutrients they need to stay healthy. The backbone (vertebrae) is lined with discs or cushions that absorb stress and shock during movement. Degenerative disc disease occurs when these discs dry out, thin, or crack.