Poor diets and sedentary lifestyles can have a lasting impact on bone health but there are ways to stay healthy.
Poor diets and sedentary lifestyles can have a lasting impact on bone health but there are ways to stay healthy.

How to keep your bones healthy

Sheltering at home and unable to visit the gym is causing most of us to have "iso bones" as nationwide orders disrupt our exercise plans and eating routines.

From poor diets to sedentary lifestyles, the pandemic is making Australians weaker than ever in lockdown - which can have a lasting impact on their bone health.

More than 1.2 million Australians already suffer from bone health issues and bone-related diseases, including osteoporosis (where bones become thin, weak and fragile), with women being at greater risk than men, according to Perth's Edith Cowan University.

While other research shows more than half of Australians aged two years and over don't receive the recommended amount of calcium intake in their diet to strengthen and protect their bones.

Research shows more than half of Australians aged two years and over don’t receive the recommended amount of calcium intake in their diet to protect their bones.
Research shows more than half of Australians aged two years and over don’t receive the recommended amount of calcium intake in their diet to protect their bones.

Experts say caring for our bones and ensuring they are kept healthy and strong is crucial during lockdown.

"If we lose some of the habits we had that kept our bones healthy, this may lead to a growing rate of poor bone health in Australians, and an increased risk of bone diseases," bone health expert Dr Sandra Iuliano says.

She believes there are three key areas to improving bone health - consuming enough calcium in your diet, getting enough vitamin D and regular weight-bearing exercise.

Dairy foods are the primary source of calcium in our diet providing around 70 per cent of calcium needs for most Australians.

Milk, cheese and yoghurt are examples of dairy foods which can easily be incorporated into the diet.

Regular low fat and skim dairy foods are all good sources of calcium and milk is available with extra calcium.

Being physically active is always a positive thing for healthy bones and muscles.
Being physically active is always a positive thing for healthy bones and muscles.

"On average, two and a half serves of calcium per day is the recommended amount for adults and can be so easy to achieve," Dr Iuliano says.

"Add some yoghurt to your cereal, cheddar cheese in your sandwich or parmesan sprinkled on top of your pasta for dinner."

Other foods such as canned fish with bones, green leafy vegetables, nuts, calcium fortified soy products and cereals also contribute calcium to the diet.

Along with diet, moderate-impact, weight-bearing exercise, paired with strength and power training, is the perfect recipe for maintaining strong bones, along with adequate vitamin D, which is as simple as being outside for seven to 30 minutes at around midday - when UV levels are highest - every day during winter.

In particular, regular weight-bearing exercise such as walking, jogging, tennis, golf or dancing will help bones develop and stay strong.

Sarah Piotrowski exercises daily during lockdown for healthy bones. Picture: Alex Coppel
Sarah Piotrowski exercises daily during lockdown for healthy bones. Picture: Alex Coppel

Personal trainer Sarah Piotrowski is the epitome of good bone health during lockdown.

Every day she does about an hour of reasonably intense exercise - four rounds of regular yoga practice under the sun to strengthen her bones, and weight-bearing exercises including squats, chair dips and skipping to increase bone mineral density.

Ms Piotrowski, from Melbourne, believes exercise is also important for psychological health and could help stave off social isolation, depression and offer a sense of achievement and contribution.

"Incorporating some form of daily exercise into my routine is my trick to healthy bones," she said.

"Whether it's resistance training, running or even just a brisk walk, I try to build in some form of weight-bearing exercise, followed up with a dairy smoothie to help with recovery."

As part of Healthy Bones Action Week, Dairy Australia is encouraging people of all ages to build healthy bones by eating calcium rich food.

Originally published as How to keep your bones healthy


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