Eating and exercising for our bones is not something we often think of, but getting some sunshine and lifting weights can ensure that your bones remain dense and strong well into the later years of your life. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, osteoporosis affects 10 million in the US, with a further 18 million at risk of the disease.
Calcium is probably the nutrient we all think of first when it comes to healthy bones, but Vitamin D is just as important—without Vitamin D, our bones cannot absorb calcium.
The best way to get sufficient Vitamin D is when sunlight hits your skin. Active people are able to get sufficient vitamin D if they live in temperate climates, but those in more northern regions will probably find it difficult. The amount your skin makes also varies depending on how light or dark your skin is—a fair person may get sufficient vitamin D in 15 minutes but it may take up to two hours for someone with darker skin. Additionally, with lifestyle changes meaning we are less active outdoors in general, and also the increased use of sunscreen, the number of people getting enough vitamin D is dropping.
How else can you get Vitamin D? Luckily, it’s in a lot of foods that are part of a healthy diet, including fatty fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel, dairy products like yogurt and cheese, and also in egg yolks. Adding a daily supplement may also be beneficial, although if you are already taking a multi-vitamin, ensure you aren’t double-dosing. Getting too much vitamin D, especially above 4,000 IU per day, can be dangerous.
In addition to eating right, exercise can help improve bone density and increased muscle strength can improve balance and coordination, critical to preventing falls which can lead to fractures in already weak bones. Focussing on the muscles in back and hips will be most beneficial as these are areas most damaged by weightless and osteoporosis-related fractures.
If you already have osteoporosis, keep in mind that vitamin D and exercise are not enough to treat the disease. Always listen to your doctor’s advice and continue to take your medication (if any) as prescribed.