They’ve been there your whole life, supporting you, it’s time to support them. We are talking about your bones! From the moment you are born until your mid-teens, your bones are growing until they reach their full length. The tissue that makes up your bones constantly renews as new bone is made and old bone is removed. However, from your 30s onwards you slowly start to lose a little bit more bone than your body can make.1
Then along comes menopause. During this time renewing bone slows down even more – and it starts earlier than you may think.1,2
Bone loss ups the pace about 1–2 years before menopause, in the phase known as perimenopause.2 The greatest bone loss occurs in the year before your final period and during the first two years afterwards.2 Over the next seven years the rate of bone loss is not as steep.2
What can be done to keep bones strong?
There are three simple things that can be done to help keep your bones strong and healthy. They are:
- Eating enough foods that are high in calcium
- Getting enough vitamin D
- Regular, weight-bearing exercise
It is recommended that you eat three portions of calcium-containing foods every day.3 These foods include dairy (yoghurt, cheese, milk) but also include cooked spinach, cooked broccoli, canned sardines (with bones), almonds and even tofu (if processed using calcium chloride or calcium sulphate).4
If you are lactose intolerant, consider soy or lactose-free dairy options. Supplements are also an option but check with your doctor first to ensure you take one with the right amount of calcium for you. If managing your diet sounds overwhelming, consider getting help from a qualified dietitian.
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps your body to absorb the calcium you’ve been eating. It’s also important for maintaining your immune system and for your cells to grow.5 The main source of vitamin D is from feeling sunlight on your skin. It is then activated by your liver and kidneys so it can get to work.5
It takes about 10–15 minutes of sun exposure to your bare skin every day to get enough vitamin D to keep your bones strong. It is recommended that you expose the skin on your face, arms, hands or legs for roughly 10 minutes in summer, 5–20 minutes in spring/autumn and 30 minutes in winter. Of course, this depends on the UV index in your area at any particular time.1,5 Your doctor can measure your vitamin D levels with a blood test, so see them before making any changes.1
3. Regular, weight-bearing exercise
As the name suggests, this includes any exercises where you are bearing your own weight (think of standing and walking). It is slightly different to resistance training, which builds muscle. Weight-bearing exercise such as brisk walking can help bone development, as the impact of your feet hitting the ground can help stimulate new bone cells to grow.6
If you are not particularly active don’t worry. Starting slow and gradually building up your strength and stamina are the best ways to get going.6The goal is to do 20–30 minutes of weight-bearing exercise or resistance training four times a week.3 If you are unsure or nervous about starting, an accredited exercise physiologist is a great way to find out what works for your body.
Get started by using our Get Active checklist.
- 1. Jean Hailes. Bone Health.
- 2. Lo JC et al. Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am 2011;38(3):503–517.
- 3. Ebeling P, Medical Observer, Get in early to preserve the bones. August 2016.
- 4. Jean Hailes, Calcium.