Healthy Eating for Your Active Lifestyle

Did you know? Over their lifetime, one in three women and one in five men will experience an osteoporotic fracture?

Healthy Bones to Last a Lifetime

November is Osteoporosis Awareness Month. Over their lifetime, one in three women and one in five men will experience an osteoporotic fracture. This month, Osteoporosis Canada is urging Canadians to be aware of their risk for breaking a bone and to get an assessment if they believe they are at risk.

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a condition that develops when bone tissue and key bone minerals (like calcium) are lost faster than they are replaced. Bones become weak and brittle and can break easily. In extreme cases, a simple hug or sneeze can result in a fracture. The tragedy is that bone loss occurs without any outward symptoms – until a break occurs. Unfortunately there is no cure for osteoporosis, therefore prevention is the key.

Bones are alive

Bone is a living tissue that changes throughout life. Bone building begins at a very young age and continues into the teen years. Young adults reach peak bone mass by age 16-20 in girls and age 20-25 in men, In the mid-thirties, old bone begins to break down faster than new bone can be built. Women lose bone even faster as they approach menopause. As a result, bones become weaker. For strong, healthy bones, it is important to achieve optimal peak bone mass when you are young, and maintain the health of your bones as you age.

Are you at risk?

  • Are you over 50 years of age?
  • Are you a smoker?
  • Do you weigh less than 132 lbs (60 kg)?

These are just a few of the risk factors that may contribute to osteoporosis. Find out if you are at risk with this Checklist for Risk of Broken Bones and Osteoporosis. If you believe you are at risk, ask your physician for a full assessment.

How can you keep your bones strong

Reducing the risk of osteoporosis is a lifetime process. While genetics and aging play key roles in determining how strong your bones are, lifestyle is also important. There are two main lifestyle factors affecting bone health: physical activity and diet.

1. Physical activity

Physical activity helps build bone and muscle strength, and improves balance, posture and coordination. Weight-bearing activities (those you do on your feet) are ideal for building and maintaining strong bones. Resistance, posture, and balance and functional activities are also beneficial. Exercises that require balance and coordination such as yoga, tai chi and pilates, can reduce the risk of falling, which is particularly important later in life. Here are some examples of activities that are good for building strong and healthy bones:
• walking/running/hiking
• climbing stairs
• dancing
• tennis
• aerobics
• basketball/volleyball
• soccer

2. Diet

Calcium and vitamin D are key bone-building nutrients. However, they are not the only nutrients involved in bone health. Magnesium, phosphorous potassium and vitamin B12 also play a role in building your bones.

Eating a healthy diet that is full of variety provides a sound foundation for keeping bones healthy year after year. Eating a variety of nutritious foods is key as it helps us to get the nutrients we need. When it comes to calcium and vitamin D specifically, milk as well as alternatives such as yogurt, kefir and cheese are excellent choices. Fortified soy beverage is the most appropriate alternative if you do not drink milk.

On the other hand, excessive alcohol (more than two to three drinks daily) and caffeine (more than three cups of coffee daily) can contribute to bone loss. Keep in mind that other drinks such as tea and soft drinks also contain caffeine.

Bottom Line
While we can’t control for all of the risk factors involved in osteoporosis, being active and eating a nutritious diet are two ways we can protect our bones throughout the years.

AFLCA Members

Are you looking for practical nutrition tools for your clients? Log in to the AFLCA Members section of the website and order free resources today!

Article posted on November 1, 2011; Article revised August 2017

Colinda Hunter

Registered Dietitian

Colinda (BPE, BSc HEc (Nutrition), RD) is a registered dietitian who shares her knowledge of food and the science of nutrition to promote optimal health and wellness. As a nutrition educator with Alberta Milk she develops nutrition education resources and programs for health educators.

Article posted on November 1, 2011

Active Tip

Take the stairs at work (if you work on the 35th floor, you may need to bring a change of clothes.) During your work day, even walking up the stairs a few times will add up active time.

The Expert Says

Registered dietitian Colinda Hunter of Alberta Milk says, “Regular physical activity and a well-balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D are important for building and maintaining strong bones at all ages. It is never too early (or too late) to start taking care of your bones.”