Our bones are important to us, but unless we have a problem with them, like an injury or illness which affects them, we often don't think about how we can keep them healthy. Our bones provide the structure and support for our whole body. They protect our organs, they are a major part of what allows us to move and they store essential minerals which our body needs. Looking after our bones should start from when we are young and continue throughout our whole lives. Keeping our bones healthy is generally straight forward and comes down to 3 main elements: getting enough calcium, regular exercise and plenty of sunshine (Vitamin D).
Calcium is essential for having strong bones. When it is combined with other minerals, it forms the hard crystals which give bones their strength and structur. It is also needed to maintain good muscle and nerve function. Lack of calcium in your diet can allow your bones to weaken. You need calcium in your diet from a young age to strengthen your bones early, to allow for strong bones as you age. The recommended daily intake for most people is 2.5-4 serves of calcium per day.
Exercise is the next most important part of the building blocks for good bone health. You need regular exercise to build, develop and maintain strong bones. As we age, we need exercise to help prevent slow bone loss, using the muscles which attach to the bones, keeps the bones stronger and maintains strength, coordination and balance. We need 30 minutes of exercise 4-6 times a week to keep our bones healthy, and it needs to be weight bearing exercise (walking, hiking, dancing, climbing stairs), resistance training (gym exercises, swimming, weights) or balance exercises (yoga, Pilates). Just try to find something you like and make it a regular activity!
Vitamin D is a mineral which is important for our body. Healthy bones need Vitamin D. It is necessary for bones to absorb calcium, which helps to keep our bones strong. Vitamin D is readily avaliable from the sun, as it forms in the skin when we are exposed to UV from sunlight. We do need to balance our risk of skin cancer, but we only need a few minutes of exposure to sunlight in summer (mid-morning or afternoon) and using sensible sun protection doesn't put people at risk of Vitamin D deficiency.
So now it is up to you, take care of your bones, so you can stay active, healthy and strong throughout your life.