It’s no secret that as we age, our bones become more fragile. From about the age of 30, we start to lose minerals such as Calcium, more rapidly than we can replace them, our bones become porous, and finally less dense. Long story short, our bones are far more susceptible to breakage than they were before, and this is called what we know to be Osteoporosis.
But, just because Osteoporosis is one of those inevitable signs of ageing, it doesn’t mean we can’t keep our bones — meaning wrists, spine and hips — as strong as possible, for as long as possible. Whether you reside in an aged care facility or not, you can reduce your risk of weak bones by adopting some rather simple everyday life habits.
Get your daily dose of Calcium and Vitamin D
Calcium is essential to bone density, as without its intake, your body draws it from the very things that need it most, your bones. According to Australia’s Eat For Health guidelines, the average person needs two to three servings per day, however, this can change depending on your age and sex. As women over the age of 50 are more likely to develop porous bones, they need four servings per day, whereas men over 50 only require 2 ½ servings per day. Calcium can be found in a large number of foods, and not only dairy options. If you’re lactose intolerant or just not a fan of milk, yoghurt and cheese, you can get your essential calcium intake from fish, nuts and seeds, and a variety of dark, leafy green vegetables including broccoli, cabbage and spinach.
Vitamin D, while not able to directly increase the density of bones, does help the body absorb the Calcium it so vitally needs. What better excuse to get outside and soak up some sun? Now this doesn’t mean we should spend lengthy sessions on the lounger until our skin starts to look a few shades darker, but that we should be getting some sun when UV levels aren’t at their strongest. If the UV level is three or above, a few minutes of sun is all you need. If catching a few rays of direct sunlight isn’t your thing, then ensure your diet includes Vitamin D rich foods including oily fish such as salmon, red meat or egg yolks.
Keep exercising, or get back to it
‘Weight-bearing’ exercises — walking, jogging, aerobics, dancing — are impact-related exercises known to increase bone density. Now, as we age some of these aren’t always possible, but milder versions are. Going for a walk around your neighbourhood, utilising the steps or cycling machine at the gym, or joining a low impact dancing or aerobics class designed for seniors, at least three times a week, will help you retain and even build upon the density of your bones.
Balance training is also a helpful form of exercise to help seniors maintain bone strength. Yoga and pilates, popular exercise routines that moved from trends to fitness staples throughout the world, both offer age appropriate variations. These exercises are popular for a reason: they not only incorporate core exercises that help your body to successfully navigate wobbly terrain, but also include resistance training which is found to increase bone mineral content. If you’ve never tried either of these before, they’re worth an attempt. They offer seniors a form of exercise suitable for any fitness level and provide group training that increases motivation for those who find it difficult to exercise alone.
If you are struggling to meet your Calcium and Vitamin D requirements on your own, then you can turn to supplements to help you out. But, it is always advised to speak to your doctor before adding any additional vitamins and minerals to your diet. Likewise with exercise, if you want to get back to, or try out a new exercise routine, speak to your doctor about your body’s specific needs before undertaking something that might cause you harm if not performed properly.