Keeping Your Bones Strong

Keep your bones strong through a balanced diet and exercise

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This page was last updated on 9 August 2022

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    Strong and healthy bones can significantly decrease your risk of serious injury if you fall. Broken and fractured bones are the most common injury received from a fall.

    Healthy Diet for Bones

    A healthy diet rich in nutrients is the foundation of maintaining healthy bones. The most important nutrients for healthy bones are calcium and vitamin D. Recent studies have also found vitamin C to help with bone strength. Vitamin C helps with the formation of collagen which works to prevent bone mass loss.


    Calcium keeps your bones strong. Your body can not make calcium so you need to get it through your diet. The recommended adult intake of calcium a day is 700mg. You can get extra calcium by taking calcium supplements however many people are able to get enough calcium by eating a healthy diet.

    Calcium Rich Foods Include:
    • Milk
    • Yoghurt
    • Cheese
    • Sardines and salmon
    • Tofu
    • Nuts and seeds
    • Bread
    • Broccoli

    It is well known that most dairy products such as milk and cheese are high in calcium. If your diet is dairy-free, oat, rice or soya milk is a good alternative to get your calcium.

    Vitamin D

    Vitamin D is necessary for bone health because it allows our bodies to absorb calcium. It is recommended that adults get 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day (around 600 IU). People over the age of 70 are recommended to consume around 800 IU a day.

    Vitamin D can be consumed in more ways than through your diet. Spending time in the sun is one of the most effective ways of getting vitamin D.

    Vitamin D From Sunlight

    In the UK from April to September is the best time to get your vitamin D from sunlight. Being in the sun is great for getting your daily dose of vitamin D but it’s important to not spend too long in direct sunlight as it can cause skin burns and make you overheat, especially in summer.

    When out in the sun remember to protect your skin by applying sun cream regularly. Staying hydrated and having regular breaks in a cool shaded area is important to avoid overheating.

    In the UK, the winter sun does not provide us with enough vitamin D. You should consume your vitamin D through your diet during these less sunny months.

    Vitamin D Through Your Diet

    The best foods to get your vitamin D from are:

    • Fish – tuna, shrimp, anchovies, mackerel, sardines
    • Eggs
    • Mushrooms
    • Liver

    Fortified foods are a good source of vitamin D such as milk, cereals and tofu. Fortified foods are foods that have had nutrients added to them, this is so the foods provide greater health benefits. If you are struggling to get your recommended intake through your food, taking vitamin D supplements can help.

    Exercises for Bones

    Exercise helps improve your bone and muscle strength and also reduces your risk of falling. There are plenty of exercises and activities great for older adults.

    Weight-Bearing Exercises

    Weight-bearing exercises are great for bone health, they lightly stress the bones and muscles so they can become stronger.

    Good weight-bearing exercises for seniors:

    • Walking
    • Tennis
    • Stair climbing
    • Dancing
    • Yoga
    • Tai Chi
    Muscle-Strengthening Exercises

    Stronger muscles help protect the bones so they are less likely to break during an impact.

    Good muscle strengthening exercises for seniors:

    • Swimming
    • Cycling
    • Hiking
    • Water aerobics
    • Weight lifting
    • Pilates
    • Resistance band workouts

    What Can Weaken Your Bones

    Certain foods, drinks and lifestyle choices can affect your bone health. These include:

    • Caffeine – Caffeinated drinks can prevent the body from absorbing calcium
    • Alcohol – Alcohol can prevent the body from absorbing calcium
    • Smoking – Smoking can decrease bone density and prevent the body from absorbing calcium. Nicotine slows the production of bone producing cells.
    • Salty foods – Food’s high in salt cause your body to excrete calcium via urine so your body is not able to absorb it.

    Bones Most at Risk of Breaking From a Fall

    • Hip fractures – Hip fractures are most common among older adults, due to weekend bones. During a fall the hip is likely to take a lot of the impact. Hip fractures often require surgery. Hip protectors can be worn to reduce the impact of a fall.
    • Arms – When falling it is a natural reaction to reach your arms out, this can result in your arms taking most of the impact.
    • Wrists – Just like with arms, you are likely to reach forward when falling so your wrists can end up taking most of the impact when falling.
    • Ankle – Ankle breaks often occur when you slip or the joint is twisted or rolled whilst moving. Ankle fractures are the third most common fracture amongst the elderly.
    • Vertebrae – Vertebral fractures are common amongst older adults living with osteoporosis.

    Osteoporosis and Falls

    Osteoporosis Is a health condition that causes loss of bone mass. It weakens bones making them more vulnerable to breaking.

    Women are most at risk of developing osteoporosis compared to men. This is because menopause causes oestrogen levels to drop in females, oestrogen helps keep bones strong and healthy. The most common injuries in people with osteoporosis are broken hips, broken wrists and spine fractures.

    It is very important to make your home a hazard-free space when living with osteoporosis, this will greatly reduce your risk of falling and prevent hospital admissions for broken bones. Having regular hearing and sight tests is also an important part of fall prevention as hearing loss can affect your balance and vision loss can make you less steady on your feet.

    By maintaining a healthy diet and regularly exercising you will improve your bone strength. A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D is recommended for people with osteoporosis. There are also medications to help people with weakened bones.