By Carin Clegg, Accredited Practising Dietitian and Fitness Professional
April is Falls Prevention month. Keeping your bones and muscles strong in your golden years is so important for keeping you on your feet, staying social, doing the activities you love and living life to the fullest.
Our bones are the strongest they will ever be by our early 20’s, then over time they lose their strength and bone density. Because we are all living longer, osteoporosis is inevitable. However, research has shown that bone density can increase again, although not more than the previous maximal amount, and osteoporosis can be delayed. To do this you need to combine regular weight bearing activity with an adequate dietary intake of calcium and vitamin D.
Bone Building Exercises
When it comes to maintaining bone density aiming for 30 minutes of bone building exercises 4–6 times a week.
This can include:
- weight–bearing exercises: brisk walking, hiking, stair climbing, jogging, playing sport, dance
- resistance training: using resistant bands, weights or gym machines like leg press, seated rowing.
- balance training: tai–chi and yoga
As you age it can be more difficult and even unsafe to do certain exercises particularly if you have certain conditions such as hypertension or cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma, arthritis, or have had any injury. So, it is best to stay on the safe side and discuss your exercise intentions with your GP. It is also highly recommended to seek professional advice from a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist who can prescribe you safe and effective exercises to suit your body’s ability
and use exercise as medicine for your health conditions.
Calcium’s role in the body is not only for building bones and teeth. It also assists in heart, muscle and nerve function, blood clotting and cell signalling. At the age of 65 years, calcium requirements increase from 1000mg daily to 1300mg daily to prevent osteoporosis. We get calcium predominately from dairy foods, however, many of the other foods in our diet also contain small amounts of calcium. So, aiming for 3 serves of 300mg calcium containing foods will get you there.
Good sources of calcium, which are easily absorbed by the body, giving 300mg per serve are:
250ml cow milk and fortified milk alternatives (soy, almond milk etc)
200g yoghurt or custard
30–40g hard cheese
100g calcium set tofu
100g salmon/sardines with the bones
The following foods also provide 300mg calcium per serve, but the calcium is not as easily absorbed:
1.5–2 cups legumes
1 cup almonds
100g calcium set firm tofu
4 cups cooked spinach
9 figs or 4 cups dried apricots
5 Tb tahini
Vitamin D is made in our skin from the sun’s direct UV rays. Unfortunately, the skin cannot make vitamin D with UV rays through glass windows so getting outside is best. In winter, on the Central Coast, we need around 30 minutes of sun exposure every day, with most of our arms and legs exposed. We may need more if we are covered up, are older, have darker skin or are carrying a few extra kilos.
The best times are before or after the harsh Australian midday sun of 11am – 2pm but if you find you get burnt that means the skin is not able to make the Vitamin D and it is best to get back inside or cover up.
Most of our vitamin D will come from the sun as there is not enough in the foods we eat to meet our nutrition needs.
Foods that do contain some vitamin D include fatty fish (mackerel and herring), liver, eggs, some margarines, other dairy or soy drinks which have been fortified as well as mushrooms that have been exposed to direct sunlight.
If you are unsure that you are getting enough Vitamin D simply ask your GP for a blood test to check your levels and they may advise on supplementation if needed.
If you have any food or health issues or feel you need help with meeting your calcium and vitamin D needs, your dietitian can also assess your food intake and support you in implementing strategies for making sure you are getting enough vitamin D through a balanced diet considering your individual health needs.
Carin Clegg is an Accredited Practising Dietitian, (BSc Nutrition, Hons) and a Personal Trainer (Cert III, IV in Fitness) who is the Director of Bright Diets. Carin loves helping people be clever about their eating so they can feel happy, healthy and vibrant, living life to the fullest. Carin specialises in paediatric nutrition, food allergies and intolerances and intellectual disability (ASD, ADHD). You can contact Carin on Ph: 0407 492 278, via her website: www.brightdiets.com.au or on the Bright Diets Facebook page.