Your 20s are a great time to put some bone mass in the bank against the day when menopause sharply cuts back on your body’s production of the reproductive hormone estrogen. Reduced estrogen often leads to a swift decline in bone mass. Building better bone density today protects you against the increased risk of fractures in the future. There’s another upside to paying attention to bone mass in your 20s. The decade of the 30s is when your body starts producing less of key muscle-building hormones. Losing growth hormone and testosterone can lead slowing metabolism that results in weight gain. Now is the time to fight back!

One endocrinologist recommends snacking on protein between meals and after exercise to reverse the decline in metabolism. Spreading your protein nibbling evenly throughout the day may build even more muscle. Here are strategies to increase bone density now.


Bank Some Bone Mass
Try to get in two or three resistance workouts by lifting weights each week to strengthen both the muscles that support bones and bone mass. Every woman faces the loss of bone mass after menopause, so putting stronger bone mass in the bank now will serve you well later.

Intensify Your Exercise
Brisk walking, jogging or aerobics are excellent exercises. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise every day, and increase intensity and duration over a period of time to build stamina and improve bone density.

Eat Your Broccoli
Pile on the bone-strengthening calcium by snacking on low-fat dairy foods such as yogurt and cottage cheese. Your diet should also include fish such as sardines, salmon or whitebait. Eating these calcium-rich foods along with dark leafy green vegetables or broccoli, which also contain calcium, ramps up the effectiveness.

Supplement Your Diet
Check with your doctor to see whether a calcium supplement is right for you. Physicians say women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s need 1,000 mgs of calcium each day and older women need more. Find out the dosage you need, and plan on taking between 1,000 and 2000 IU of Vitamin D daily to help absorb calcium.

Stretch and Flex
Stretch once or twice every day and hold for 20 to 30 seconds to lengthen tight muscles and give you the spinal alignment that will prevent hunching over in the future. This exercise reduces back pain and improves that all-important posture, flexibility and balance.

Stomp Out Future Fractures
Before you haul those cans off to the recycling center, put them to good use. Stomping on cans will improve bone density in your hips. Flatten those babies with four stomps each foot twice each day. Pushups and planks will help strengthen wrists. Find exercises that will strengthen the spine. These areas— hips, wrists and spine—are the ones prone to fracture.

Read more: How to Manage Hormones at 30.