There are 206 bones that make up the skeletal body. Bone is a living tissue that is constantly being removed and replaced. Bones need normal sex hormones, calcium, vitamin D, proteins and weight bearing / strengthening exercise to keep them healthy. Peak bone mass is reached at 25-30 years old. After the mid-forties bone density is lost approximately 0.5-1% a year. As we get older and over 50, more bone is naturally lost than is replaced. This causes bones to become fragile and therefore, they can break easily.
What can You do to Help Keep your bones healthy?
Diet - Calcium
We all know the saying "them bones, them bones need calcium!" Calcium is the most common mineral found in our bones and helps to give bones strength and rigidity. It has been said that osteoporosis is a childhood disease that manifests itself in adult years. As children, it is necessary to grow a strong healthy skeleton that will last a lifetime. Calcium is also particularly important at the time of menopause because calcium absorption slows down due to lower levels of oestrogen. The best sources of calcium are milk, cheese and yoghurt.
Diet - Vitamin D3
Along with Calcium, Vitamin D3 is an essential part of maintaining bone health. Vitamin D3, or the “sunshine vitamin”, is critical for calcium absorption as it increases the body’s ability to absorb calcium by as much as 30-80%. When a person's skin is exposed to ultraviolet B rays from the sun, the skin makes vitamin D. The most important source of vitamin D3 is from the action of sunlight on the skin. Approximately 10-15 minutes of sunlight a day (depending on skin type) is recommended. Vitamin D3 can also be found in some foods such as fish oils. Eating oily fish twice a week can help to supply your vitamin D requirements, depending on the portion size. Some products are fortified with Vitamin D such as breakfast cereals, milk and margarines.
Supplements of calcium and Vitamin D can also be taken, which can be prescribed or recommended by your GP.
Exercise - Weight Bearing Exercise
Appropriate, weight-bearing exercise is essential at all ages to maintain and increase bone density and strength. Weight bearing exercise involves any activity during which are feet and legs support and carry our body weight. Any form of weight bearing exercise like walking, running, jumping, weight training are beneficial to help maintain good bone health. By placing stress on the bone by performing physical activity helps to encourage the formation of new bone. A review by Todd and Robinson (2003) showed that weight training actually increases bone mineral density compared to swimming, which is a non-weight bearing activity, and showed no improvement in bone mineral density. The review concluded that weight bearing exercise has a positive effect on bone health and maintaining bone mineral density. Zarowny (2011) recommended that weight bearing exercise be done for 30 minutes at a time daily as well as specific strengthening exercises 3-4 times a week to keep bones healthy.
Exercise - Pilates
Pilates is a great way to do weight-bearing exercise to build up muscle mass around the core, the hips and the spine. Improved strength and muscle mass will help the body better support bones. Pilates helps to improve overall flexibility and posture, which will help to keep the bones aligned. Pilates also improves balance, which can help reduce the risk of falling. Some exercises in Pilates are not recommended for clients with Osteoporosis or brittle bones. It is important to inform your instructor if you do have Osteoporosis in order to ensure Pilates will be most beneficial for you.
Other Lifestyle factors
Stopping smoking, modest alcohol consumption as well as maintaining an adequate body weight all play a part in maintaining good bone health.
If you are concerned about your Bone Health?
Please see your GP if you are concerned about your bone health. Your GP can then refer you on for a DEXA Scan which will measure the density in your bones. A chartered physiotherapist can prescribe a bone health exercise programme if required.
Photo by renjith krishnan/ freedigitalphotos.net
By Tricia Murphy MISCP