The other day I was kneading bread dough and thinking about how great that is for building strength in my wrist bones and also for building grip strength which is something that has been deteriorating the more inactive people become. As in, grip strength was SO 30 years ago. (source)
I started thinking about the virtuous woman from Proverbs 31. How she worked with her hands. And how that’s not only good for grip strength, but also for building up the bones in our hands, wrists, and arms.
Which is important as the wrist is a hot spot for osteoporotic fractures, or fractures due to bone loss.
When I opened my Bible, I was pretty excited. Because as I starting reading through the chapter, it became clear that the criteria of being a wise woman are also the perfect recipe for building strong bones!
Check it out!
“Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.”
“The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain.”
“She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.” Proverbs 31:10-12
Ah. What an example of a peaceful and fulfilling marriage. Mutual trust and respect. Selfless love.
Living a life without strife is numero uno for health in general and for bone health specifically.
In fact, during times of stress or depression, there is an increase in cortisol production. Cortisol directly impacts bone health by increasing the rate of bone resorption (taking away bone), inflammatory responses, and decreases estrogen and testosterone levels, which are primary regulators in bone formation.
Basically for bones to be strong and sturdy, the stress in our lives need to be managed well. I didn’t say have no stress. Ha! But it does not have to break our emotional or physical health. Praise God!
“She seeks wool and flax,” verse 13a
Wool and flax are both natural fibers. Natural fibers are great to help with good circulation and maintain an even temperature in the body. Good circulation and warmth is vital to life itself, but even has a direct impact on the strength of the bones. (See this post)
Just in the simple act of dressing with natural fibers, this woman is increasing the health of her bones. Don’t you just love simple?!
“And willingly works with her hands.” Verse 13b
This is the verse that came to mind and inspired this post about making bread and working with our hands in general, not just to be productive but to take care of our body’s movement and exercise needs.
Imagine if there were no gyms to work out in. No machines to move our bodies for us. No weights to lift. No fancy exercise equipment. What would we do to stay healthy?!
Well, it would be before the year 1851 (in the United States). And we’d work with our hands.
“She is like the merchant ships, she brings her food from afar.” Verse 14
That verse says two things that are important to strong bones. First, this household is eating a variety of foods. Good nutrition going on here. Bone-building fuel!
Second, she may be having to go far to get her food. Perhaps walking or riding a horse. Or a bit of both. Either way takes strength and endurance.
Let’s consider walking. It is one of those exercises that’s good for everyone because we were created to walk. It promotes whole body circulation and literally works every organ in the body.
Walking is truly a most excellent exercise for building functional bone.
You may have heard that high impact exercises and weight-lifting are necessary to build bone. The principle is true, bone responds to load by putting down more bone. BUT that is only true in the specific areas that are being loaded. Lifting weights only pulls on the bones that the muscles attached to.
Guess what. Those areas on the bones (the ones where muscles are attached) are not the ones with low bone mineral density anyway.
The areas that are at highest risk for fracture are the ones that are not being loaded properly in the first place.
Like the neck of the big leg bone (femur). There is no direct pull or muscle attachment here, so it depends entirely on weight-bearing for bone-building force.
Yet many people walk around without loading the femoral neck much at all!
How is that possible?
Postural alignment (see this post).
If the bones aren’t stacked, the force is only indirectly loading the bones.
Consider a teeter totter. Does it take more or less force to lift someone off the ground who is standing in front of you or to lift them off the ground using a teeter totter? Of course using a lever makes it easier to lift something (or someone) even if they are heavier than you. As in the weight of something seems less because it is distributed differently. But is that object (or person) any lighter? No! The mass is the same.
Now consider if someone stands and walks with their pelvis out in front of them. The bones no longer have as much weight through them and the muscles and ligaments have to be “on” to hold up the body much more than if everything were stacked directly through the frame (skeleton).
So why not walk in alignment and build those bones for functional strength instead?
The good news is, walking can be a great bone-building activity. No special equipment required. You just need to make sure that you are walking in alignment to get all those great bone-building loads.
The bad news is, if you’re walking with poor biomechanics (poor posture), the bone-building potential is greatly decreased.
“She also rises while it is yet night,” Verse 15a
My, she’s up early! Later on it says her candle doesn’t go out by night, but I’d guess since this woman is wise she knows she needs her sleep. But perhaps it’s winter and sunset is early so she works awhile after the kids go to bed then rises early to get a jump on her work for the day.
For bone-building, the best time to exercise is early morning, before breakfast preferably. Other times can be beneficial too, so don’t skip out on exercise if it’s not doable in the morning. Just aim for morning if possible.
“And provides food for her household, and a portion for her maidservants.” Verse 15b
We already talked about the diligence of bringing her food from afar. Now this woman is getting up early to prep her food for the day.
Sounds like she has her meals planned, ensuring enough for all, and is using a variety of foods, so this woman must be getting a good balanced diet. Excellent for building good bones.
Here is a list of plant-based, bone-building foods:
- Molasses (an ideal sweetener for osteoporosis prevention)
- Leafy green vegetables
“She extends her hand to the poor, Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy.” Verse 20
Did you know that the most beneficial exercise is the kind that is purposeful? And especially the kind that benefits others.
This woman not only works and provides for her household, but is benevolent to strangers. Truly she is blessed with health and happiness!
May we aim to not just check “exercise” off of our list, but seek to do meaningful work that will bless others.
“She is not afraid of snow for her household, For all her household is clothed with scarlet. She makes tapestry for herself. Her clothing is fine linen and purple.” Verses 21,22
Once more this Proverb points out clothing as a need that is met and provided for. Not just for the heads of the house but for the entire household. Everyone is fully covered and will be warm for the winter which is crucial to bone strength and health in general. Good quality, natural fiber clothing is going to be the most economical and life-giving in the long run.
“She shall rejoice in time to come … And does not eat the bread of idleness.” Verses 25b, 27b
This woman is cheerful. She takes pleasure in her work. She does not see it as a mere drudgery nor is she idle.
This is key to health.
Specifically, the health of the bones need constant loading and movement as I’ve already mentioned. And of course our level of happiness has direct impact on the bones as discussed with the direct effects of depression on the bones.
So rejoice. It helps to keep us in good spirits and can battle depression. Just the simple act of praising God is good for our mentality, no matter our circumstances.
“Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” Verse 30
And herein is the key to health. Fearing the Lord. Our Creator, our Guide, our Strong Tower. In Him we can rest knowing that if we follow the blueprint He has laid out for us, we have nothing to fear. And we can live in complete and abundant joy.
- Pamplano-Roger, G.D. (2003). Encyclopedia of Foods and Their Healing Power. Madrid, Spain: Editorial Safely, S.L.