What Makes Strong Healthy Bones?

This week is Healthy Bones Action Week, so we wanted to take a look at what makes healthy, strong bones and how we can help our children grow healthy bones to last them a life time! Did you know that peak bone mass is achieved by our early twenties? With nearly 40% of bone mass being acquired during adolescence. Ensuring our children achieve high peak bone mass now means they’ll be less at risk for osteoporosis and fractures later in life.

So what makes strong healthy bones? 3 key building blocks are needed. They are calcium, Vitamin D (prefereably from the sun) and weight bearing exercise.

Calcium is a mineral which is essential for growing and maintaining our bones and teeth, we all know that dairy (milk, cheese and yoghurt) are excellent sources of calcium, but did you know you can also get calcium from dark leafy greens, bok choy, broccoli, green beans, almonds, brazil nuts, sesame seeds, white beans (baked beans!) and canned fish with their bones (i.e. salmon and sardines) and some fortified cereals. They provide an excellent source of non-dairy calcium for anyone with intolerances, a vegan diet, or just looking to boost your daily intake, all the more reason to promote more greens!

How much do we need?

Calcium Requirements:1000mg of Calcium =
1-3 years500mg per day1 cup reduced fat milk
4-8 years700mg per day1/2 cup baked beans
9-11 years1,000mg per day1 tub yoghurt
12-18 years1,300mg per day1 serve lebanese cucumber
1 medium orange
1 serve broccoli

Check out the calcium content of a wide variety of foods.

Importance of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is needed for calcium absorption and is essential for bone formation, we get our Vitamin D mainly from exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet B rays, so in Australia we are lucky that we have plenty of sunshine to help us, although many of us are still deficient. Generally we need exposure to sunlight for 5-10 minutes a day during summer and up to 30 minutes during winter. Whilst sun exposure is vital for our bones health, we need to ensure we are still sun safe when soaking up our Vitamin D, so stick to the guidelines and slip, slop, slap at all other times.

What about exercise?
Along with nutrition, exercise also plays a vital role in bone strength, particularly during childhood and adolescence, regular weight bearing exercise helps growing bones achieve peak bone strength which means their bones will stay stronger for longer resulting is less bone loss in adulthood. Studies have shown that children who engage in moderate to high impact weight bearing activities have higher bone density than less active children. Weight bearing exercise is any form of activity in which your body weight is supported by yourself; Such as brisk walking, jogging, jumping etc. Highly osteogenic (bone building) activities include basketball, netball, dancing, gymnastics, tennis and jumping rope. Why not try adding some incidental weight bearing exercise to each day by getting the kids to help carry the shopping, taking the stairs wherever possible or even dancing around the house to your favourite music.

So for your bones health, make it a goal for you and your children to increase calcium intake, get some more green time outdoors in the sun (whilst still being sun safe of course) and enjoy regular weight bearing exercise. Your bones will thank you for it in years to come! If you have any concerns about your child’s bones or are worried about calcium or vitamin D deficiency, please see a health professional.