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Get healthier bones

Keeping bones healthy as you age is critically important, and not as hard as you might think.


Good bone health takes more than keeping your fridge stocked with a ready supply of milk, cheese, and yoghurt.

According to Healthy Bones Australia, an initiative of Osteoporosis Australia, strong healthy bones require an adequate calcium intake, regular exercise and a daily dose of sunshine.

Without strong bone health we run the risk of breaks. Osteoporosis Australia estimates that 165,000 will be broken this year because of poor bone health.

So here are five tips for maintaining “dem bones” as you age.

Know your calcium needs

Women need to boost their calcium intake as they age. Until the age of 50 the recommended daily allowance (RDA) is 1000mg. Beyond 50 it rises to 1300mg. Men need 1000mg daily until they are in their 70s. Then they, too, need 1300mg.

No-brainer ways to boost calcium

You might automatically think “dairy to the rescue” if you need to boost your calcium intake. But there are other foods that can help deliver your daily calcium needs. Think greens such as spinach, broccoli and bok choy; fish such as sardines, salmon and mussels; legumes such as chickpeas; nuts, particularly almonds; tofu and soy milk.

If you’ve already been prescribed a calcium supplement, it’s best to stick with it.

No-nos for bone health

Regularly drinking more than two standard alcoholic drinks a day, or more than three serves of caffeinated beverages a day; or consuming less than three serves of dairy products a day could be impacting your bone health. If you’re also failing to meet exercise and sunshine requirements, discuss your bone health with a GP.

Get active

Love cycling or swimming? They are great for a cardio boost but don’t do the trick for your bones. Weight-based or resistance exercise is what’s needed. Aim to do 30 minutes of bone-building exercise four to six times a week. Weight-bearing exercise could include brisk walking, stair-climbing rather than taking a lift; jogging, dancing or tennis. Resistance training could include using machines at a gym such as a leg press or seated rowing or using weights such as dumbbells or ankle weights. Bones like short, high-intensity bursts of exercise rather than long, slower sessions, as well as variety in exercise.

Get your rays

Without adequate sunshine, we don’t produce the all-important vitamin D needed for bone health. So what is the right amount?

It depends on your age, location in Australia, time of day and the season.

In general, someone with moderately fair skin benefits from having their arms exposed for 5-10 minutes mid-morning or mid-afternoon in summer and 7-30 minutes in winter around noon. So having a morning or afternoon tea break in the sun, around 10am or 2pm, could be exactly what the doctor ordered. If an afternoon stroll later in the day (say 5pm) or an early morning walk with the dog is more your speed, you may require longer in the sun.

The Healthy Bones Australia website ( has a calculator to help you assess whether you are meeting the daily calcium, exercise, sunshine requirements needed for good bone health.