01 Mar, 2013

Beating Brittle Bones

Beating Brittle Bones

Bones have many roles in your body: They provide structure, anchor muscles, protect vital organs and store essential calcium. However, women’s bone development peaks around the age of 20 and they often slowly lose bone density as they grow older, so it’s important to maintain bone strength after that, and weight-bearing activities like running, walking and lifting weights are great ways to do this. Strengthening your bones will also give you more energy, flexibility and vitality.


However, many female athletes often concentrate too much on cardiovascular training and ignore strength training, especially when they hit the gym, because they want to lose weight but not pick up muscle mass, but this further contributes to their loss of bone strength. On the other hand, running can also contribute to low bone density: The more intensive your training is, the less oestrogen you produce, which is a major cause of weakening bones. A woman training hard for a marathon, for example, could experience a reduction in oestrogen production of up to 50%.


The secret is finding the right balance between building strength and eating right, so to keep your structure sturdy, heed the following advice to help prevent problems down the road.


1. GET YOUR VITAMINS: Women need a higher calcium intake than men, around 1000mg of calcium per day, and after 50, the daily requirement climbs to around 1300mg. Vitamin D is another must for bone strength, as it helps the body absorb enough calcium, while magnesium, vitamin K and omega-3 fatty acids are also essential for bone health. Therefore make sure your diet includes these vitamins and minerals, or alternatively get supplements to ensure your body is getting enough of them. Also, go out and get some sun for fifteen minutes a day to up your vitamin D intake – it’ll make you feel relaxed and more energetic.


2. EAT RIGHT: An easy way to ensure bone strength is proper nutrition, so make sure these foods are in your trolley:

?         Dairy products – Considered the best source of the three essentials, calcium, vitamin D and magnesium.

?         Leafy greens – Another great source of the three essentials.

?         Nuts and seeds – excellent source of magnesium and the omega-3 fatty acid ALA.

?         Beans – Loaded with magnesium and calcium.

?         Dried fruits – Contain compounds that enhance the body’s ability to build bone strength.

?         Fish – Great way to get vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids.

?         Tea – Most brews contain fluoride, flavanoids and phytoestrogens that contribute to bone strength.

?         Fortified foods – Whole grain cereals, orange juice and non-dairy milks usually contain added calcium and vitamin D.


3. EXERCISE: Eating for your bones needs to be backed up by regular weight-bearing physical activities, such as running, walking, hiking, dancing, stair climbing, weight-lifting and racquet sports. While swimming and cycling can improve your endurance and fitness, they are not the ultimate sports to improve bone mass density.



We all lose bone mass as we age, but a healthy mix of physical activity and a nutritious diet can help you beat brittle bones. Make it a lifestyle choice to protect your bones and you’ll be making a long-term investment in your health and quality of life.