Time to Start Thinking About Bone Health
As we head into middle age and beyond, we start to be confronted by health issues that we probably didn’t think too much about when we were younger. One of those issues/conditions is thinning of our bones, which for some people, can become osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis or osteopenia affects around fifty-five per cent of Americans aged 50 and over. This number continues to rise. In Australia, statistics show that there are one third more women with osteoporosis than men. Globally one in three women and one in 5 men in this age group will experience an osteoporosis-related bone fracture. Looking at just these few statistics shows why a goal to maintain or increase bone density is very important.
If you are over 50, bone health is something you really should be considering.
Why Do Bones Get Weaker as We Age?
Our bones are not only the solid structure our bodies are built around; they also store calcium and other minerals. We also have calcium circulating in our blood. This circulating calcium is used in muscle contractions, blood clotting, regulating heartbeat, fluid balance. It’s also used in our neurological system, and for building strong teeth and strong bones. The amount of circulating calcium is very tightly controlled to keep everything functioning properly. Having either too much or not enough calcium can cause problems. Dietary calcium and the calcium in our bones can be called on to maintain the correct levels in our blood. Our bones are continually remodelled, with calcium being taken and replaced to maintain blood calcium levels. When overtime, more calcium is taken than replaced, our bones become weaker and more prone to fracture.
The loss of calcium from our bones caused by advancing age and menopause can put us at a higher risk of fracture. It’s very important to be aware of bone health when you are younger. Having a higher bone density before reaching menopause can lower the risk of developing osteoporosis. Having a diet high in calcium and doing the right type of exercise can make a big difference even if you haven’t thought ahead. So it’s never too late to make some healthy changes!
We also need Vitamin D for healthy bones.
Vitamin D is another important nutrient for bone health. Vitamin D is involved in regulating the amount of calcium in our blood. It does this by enhancing calcium absorption from the gastrointestinal tract and reabsorption from our kidneys. We can produce vitamin D in our body from interactions between sunlight, and our skin, or we can get limited amounts from dietary sources (fortified milk and other fortified foods as well as from some animal products). If you for one reason or another you don’t get much time in the sun, then it might be worth talking to your doctor. They may do a blood test to establish your vitamin D level.
How much calcium do you need?
The Dietary Reference Intakes in the USA recommend that women aged 51 – 70 have 1200mg of calcium daily, and men in this age group have 1000mg. For people aged 71 + the recommendation is 1200mg for both women and men. The recommendation in Australia is only slightly different, instead of 1200mg for women aged between 51-70 the recommendation is 1300mg
It’s best to get your calcium intake from dietary sources rather than supplements if possible. Dairy products are among the best dietary source of calcium. Just 1 cup of skim milk, 200ml of low-fat Greek yoghurt and 40g of cheese will give you 937mg of calcium. Add to that 100g of canned sardines (with bones), and you’re over the 1200mg RDI with a total of 1477mg of calcium.
Exercise for stronger bone
Although doing any form of exercise is a good thing, if your goal is to get stronger bones, you need to pick the right type of exercise. For strong bones, some forms of exercise are better than others. Like our muscles adapt to lifting weights by getting stronger, our bones adapt to stress we put them under as well. The type of exercise that strengthen our bones are things like resistance training (lifting weights), jogging/running and sports like tennis or basketball. These types of activities put load on our skeleton through either lifting or holding weight or by our bones absorbing stress caused by the impact from running and jumping activities, helping to stimulate mineralisation.
Exercises like swimming and bike riding, however, offer very little in the way of stress to our skeleton. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do these exercises; they're still great for your health and fitness and wellbeing in other ways.
You are probably thinking; this is where I would give you a specific exercise plan that would help you maintain or improve your bone density. I wish it were that easy! There are just too many differences between each individual. For example, things like pre-existing health conditions, level of experience at the types of exercise I mentioned earlier, and availability of equipment for some types of exercise.
If you are serious about improving your bone health, I would suggest you start by talking to your doctor. All going well, they’ll give you the all-clear to start an exercise plan. They may recommend an allied health specialist suited to you. Make sure search out a good exercise physiologist or fitness specialist with experience in exercise for bone health to guide you toward strong, healthy bones.
If you would like some help or advice from me, you can contact me through the button below. I would love to be able to help you!
Planning for Your Health and Fitness
Are you thinking about starting an exercise routine and improving your health and fitness? If you are, then one of the most important things you should do before you get started, is spend a bit of time thinking about what you are aiming to achieve. I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of things going on in my life. I want to make sure I’m using the precious time I’ve put aside for exercise as effectively as I can. Making sure you’ve really identified what you want out of your fitness plan can save you a lot of unproductive time. Once you’ve worked out your goals, then it’s just a matter of working out the best way of achieving them. Even if you are already exercising, regularly reassessing your plan is a must.
Identifying Your Goals
There are a lot of reasons people decide they need to start an exercise program:
Breaking It Down
Let’s say your goal is to run a marathon. If you’ve never ran before, that’s a massive goal. Breaking it down into smaller more easily achievable pieces will give you a much greater chance of eventually running your first marathon. An example of how you might break it down is by signing up to run a 5k and training for that. Next you might enter a 10k and so on, until the final jump to the 42k marathon isn’t so massive. Another example might be you want to lose some weight. If you don’t want to overwhelm yourself and lose motivation, break it down into small achievable mini weight goals. Each time you reach one of your mini goals you’ll feel a sense of achievement, which will help keep you motivated toward.
Best Path to Your Goal
This is where it can start to get tricky and confusing. Be careful that you don’t waste time following the wrong exercise plan or falling for the latest fad. Choose carefully where you get your advice. This will save you a lot of time and may be the difference between you reaching your goal or not. There’s a lot of health and fitness information out there for you to digest. Often the simplest plans are the most effective. If it’s too complex, it’ll usually be hard to maintain over the long term. Health and fitness and well-being is an ongoing process, so it needs to be sustainable. If you’re just starting out remember that like most things in life, improving your health and fitness is a process, so don’t be in too much of a rush. You don’t want to build a house of cards, which might collapse at any moment.
Choosing Where to Get Your Health & Fitness Information
There are a lot of self-proclaimed guru’s around, especially since the onset of the internet and social media. Don’t just follow blindly. If you see someone on the internet that you think might be able to help you, do some research. Checkout their background, experience and qualifications etc. If you can get a recommendation from a friend who has had a good experience with a trainer that’s always a good start. This might not always work though. Your goal might be a lot different than your friends goal, so still check if their trainer has experience in what you’re trying to achieve. It’s also important that your trainer understands that it’s your goal and not theirs. It’s super important that your trainer understands and is fully onboard with your goal. Remember it’s about you, not the trainer.
Randomly choosing an exercise plan can very quickly waste your time, and have you end up not heading toward your goal at all. In future articles I’ll give you some ideas of what a training plan might look like for some specific goals.
If you have a goal that you aren’t sure how to achieve, you can contact me through the link below and maybe I can make your goal the topic of a future article.
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