When we exercise for health and looks, we’re probably not thinking about our bones. But the earlier you start exercises or healthy eating, the more you are protecting your bones in the future. After all, your bones are the structural foundation of your body, providing support, protection, and mobility.

Looking after your bones is like taking care of your pension plans. If you focus on preservation when younger, together with fiscal discipline, you can be assured of greater peace of mind in your later years. Invest now and enjoy the rewards later.

Adolescence is the perfect time to invest in your bones. It’s a critical period for bone development as the majority of bone mass is acquired during this time. Ensuring adequate intake of calcium, Vitamin D, and other nutrients during adolescence is essential for building strong bones that can withstand the aging process. It’s key to instill knowledge about the value of bones in people while they are young, so they become aware that while enjoying physical activity, they are also saving their bones for optimal health in the future.

What you eat
While there are so many good things to eat, whether from your own kitchen or eating out, you can be persuaded on many occasions to let the strict diet go. But always remember, enjoyment does not have to suffer. As long as your basic diet follows sensible eating, you can splash out on other meals when the moment takes you.

However, keeping in mind that consuming a diet rich in calcium, Vitamin D, and other essential nutrients is vital for bone development and maintenance, can’t do any harm. Why do you need to do this? Because calcium is the primary mineral found in bones, so ensuring your diet includes calcium-rich foods such as dairy products, leafy greens, almonds, and fortified foods makes perfect sense. Additionally, Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, so including sources like fatty fish, egg yolks, and fortified foods in your diet makes for even wider good choice.

Eat what you like, like what you eat – but let your bones like it too. Their increasing wealth through healthy living, gives you the kind of returns that you really need in later life.

Moving those muscles, working up a sweat
We are sure you’ve heard this before – but engaging in weightbearing and muscle-strengthening exercises is crucial for building and maintaining bone density. Weightbearing simply means you engage in exercises where your body works against gravity, such as walking, running, dancing, and hiking. Strength-training exercises, like lifting weights or using resistance bands, help build muscle strength, which indirectly benefits bone health by increasing bone density – the real wealth of your bones!

Every time you engage in exercise you are investing in your bones. It’s important to know that prolonged periods of sitting or inactivity can contribute to bone loss over time. Sedentary activities, like watching TV or using electronic devices, must be balanced with regular movement and exercise. Take breaks throughout the day to stand, stretch, or take walks – even a short walk is helpful – to promote bone health and overall wellbeing.

The pay-you-back do’s and don’ts

  • Avoiding smoking, excessive alcohol. Smoking and continued daily alcohol consumption can have detrimental effects on bone health. Smoking interferes with the absorption of calcium in the body and reduces bone density, increasing the risk of fractures and osteoporosis. Similarly, excessive alcohol intake can impair bone formation and increase the risk of fractures. If you take care in the younger years to develop the right habits, you can protect your future bones.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight. Being underweight or overweight can negatively impact bone health. Maintaining a healthy body weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise is essential for optimal bone health. Underweight individuals may have lower bone density, while excess body weight can strain the skeletal system and increase the risk of joint problems. Aim for a healthy weight range based on your body composition and lifestyle.
  • Regular bone density screening becomes more important as one ages. If however you have any risk factors present (regardless of your age) a Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) is recommended to assess bone density and identify any potential issues early on. Early detection allows for intervention and management strategies well in time to ensure you bank the best ways to preserve bone health.
  • Don’t take things to heart, or to your bones! Constant stress can have negative effects on overall health, including bone health. High levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, can interfere with bone formation and lead to bone loss over time. Incorporating stress-reducing activities into your daily routine, such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises, can help mitigate the detrimental effects of stress on bone health.

Love your bones! Remember, small, consistent efforts made early on can have a significant impact on your bone health as you age.

NOFSA (National Osteoporosis Foundation South Africa)

NOFSA is the only non-profit, voluntary health organisation dedicated to promoting lifelong bone health. We focus on reducing the widespread prevalence of osteoporosis while working to find a cure for the disease, and by supporting research and developing programmes of education and advocacy.

Find out more about our work at: www.osteoporosis.org.za