How to keep your bones healthy and strong

When it comes to staying fit and healthy there are a number of issues we hear about time and time again; heart disease, diabetes, and obesity are the most common and while they’re definitely important there is another big reason to consider: osteoporosis.

They call it the silent disease, mostly because by the time many people are diagnosed it has well and truly set in without them even realising. To get technical for a moment — osteoporosis occurs when your bones lose their density and become brittle and fragile. This can lead to breaks from even minor bumps or falls, which can result in chronic pain and reoccurring injury.

There are a number of things that can cause osteoporosis, but the three key factors are: age, diet, and vitamin D.

As we age our bones lose density and thickness, meaning we’re more prone to fractures. This is especially problematic in women who lose a lot of density when they go through menopause due to lower levels of oestrogen.

One woman who is well aware of this is former track and field Olympian Jane Flemming who teamed up with Ostelin to complete an epic trek across Tasmania’s Overland Track to raise awareness for the importance of bone health.

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According to the experts, one of the best ways to keep your bones healthy and avoid osteoporosis is through exercise. Jane says the four-day trek through Tasmania was a great way to give people some tips on how to stay fit and most importantly keep their bones strong.

She says that although she tries to stay fit and healthy, she had to step it up a notch to prepare for the trek.

“I try to stay relatively fit but had not done many stair or hill sessions of late so I incorporated a few of these into my fitness regime, along with a few very long walks. I was particularly concerned with ensuring I wore my boots in before the trek to protect my feet,” she told Starts at 60.

“I mostly still run — amongst other times, to school with our twin boys and our dog and do a bit of light weights and body weight work.

“I am a very busy person and spend a lot of time on my feet which I really believe helps with my overall fitness.”

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Diet of course plays an important role in overall health, along with exercise, but it can also go a long way towards preventing osteoporosis if you’re eating foods that are rich in calcium.

Dairy products such as milk, yoghurt and butter are a great place to start, along with leafy greens like broccoli, bok choy, Chinese cabbage and spinach.

Jane says she takes a simple approach when it comes to her diet.

“I eat fairly well most of the time and our entire family work on a ‘Sometimes, always and never foods’ philosophy so I didn’t really have to change anything. Obviously the fresher the food the better.”

Another great way to keep your bones strong is through vitamin D, which you can get through food (like tuna, salmon, eggs and orange juice), vitamin D supplements, or some good old fashioned sunshine.

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What are Jane’s top tips for staying fit and strong?

“Stay on your feet, walk as a form of transport, stay away from beige food and it is good to feel hungry sometimes. The hardest thing about training is getting changed and getting there — so do exercise you enjoy and don’t make any decisions about your health routine while lying down!”

Do you take care of your bone health? Do you have a history of osteoporosis in your family?