About Healthy Bones

 
You are never too young – or old – to act when it comes to protecting your bones.

No matter what your age, there are some simple actions you can take to help your body build and maintain strong bones. It starts in childhood, this is the biggest opportunity to lay the foundation to build strong bones for life. The teenage years are a major growth - at this time teens' bodies build one-quarter of their adult bone mass. Peak bone mass is reached in your late twenties, after this it continues to be vital to get adequate calcium, exercise and vitamin D to maintain the bones you've built.

Three simple actions you can take to build and maintain healthy bones include:

1. Going for a walk or committing to some new form of regular exercise
2. Spending time outdoors to get more vitamin D
3. Increasing daily serves of calcium through milk, cheese or yogurt

Regular physical activity is particularly important for reducing bone loss in adults. The best exercises for bone health are ‘weight-bearing’ meaning things that involve resistance or supporting your own body weight. Activities like running and skipping are great, things like bike riding and swimming, while great for your general health, are less effective for bone building. Some other activities that can improve bone strength include:

  • Walking, jogging, running, skipping, jumping
  • Dancing, gymnastics, netball, basketball, football, soccer
  • Progressive resistance training such as lifting weights. 

Aim for at least 30 minutes of various weight-bearing and resistance training activities three or more times a week. The Osteoporosis Australia website has lots of great advice on appropriate exercises to support bone health.

Vitamin D plays an important role in bone health. It helps the absorption of calcium from the intestines and also helps to control calcium levels in the blood. Only a small amount of vitamin D comes from the food we eat, most comes from our bodies producing vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight.

Regular and safe sun exposure is recommended depending on the season, where you live and the time of day. For example, moderately fair skinned people with arms exposed, require six to seven minutes of sun exposure mid-morning or mid-afternoon on most summer days. Learn more about appropriate sun exposure from Osteoporosis Australia.

 

We say ‘increasing’ daily calcium because according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, over half of Australians don’t get enough calcium in their diet. Calcium is essential for building strong bones as well as supporting muscle and nerve function. Almost 99 per cent of the body’s calcium is found in bones, where it combines with other minerals to form the hard crystals that give bones their strength and structure.

If we don’t eat enough calcium, the calcium within our bones is used for other important body functions. Over a period of time bone strength can decline and may increase our risk of osteoporosis (weak bones). Milk, cheese and yoghurt are the greatest contributors to calcium in the Australian diet, supplying around 60 per cent of the calcium we eat. Having at least two and a half serves of milk, cheese or yoghurt per day will help adults meet their calcium recommendations, and provide magnesium, protein and other bone-building nutrients.

Calcium can also be found in non-dairy food options such as alternative milks, leafy green vegetables, canned fish with soft edible bones such as sardines or salmon, almonds and tofu. However, it’s important to be aware of quantities required. For example, you need to eat almost a whole head of broccoli to get the same amount of calcium that’s in a glass of milk. Plant-based beverages such as soy and almond beverages can also provide a source of calcium. To be considered suitable dairy milk substitutes, they should contain similar levels of calcium to milk (100mg calcium per 100ml).

Follow the tabs on the left to find out about the importance of building and maintaining strong bones at your life stage.