Osteoporosis - Prevention 

Preventing osteoporosis 

Get some sun!

Between May and September, sunlight triggers the production of vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium.

This process helps strengthen teeth and bones, which in turn helps prevent conditions such as osteoporosis.

Read more about how to get vitamin D from sunlight.

Your genes are responsible for determining your height and the strength of your skeleton, but lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise influence how healthy your bones are.

Regular exercise

Regular exercise is essential. Adults aged 19 to 64 should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as cycling or fast walking, every week.

Weight-bearing exercise and resistance exercise are particularly important for improving bone density and helping to prevent osteoporosis.

As well as aerobic exercise, adults aged 19 to 64 should also do muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week by working all the major muscle groups, including the legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms.

If you've been diagnosed with osteoporosis, it's a good idea to talk to your GP or health specialist before starting a new exercise programme to make sure it's right for you.

Read more about the physical activity guidelines for adults and find out more about:

Weight-bearing exercises

Weight-bearing exercises are exercises where your feet and legs support your weight. High-impact weight-bearing exercises, such as running, skipping, dancing, aerobics, and even jumping up and down on the spot, are all useful ways to strengthen your muscles, ligaments and joints.

When exercising, wear footwear that provides your ankles and feet with adequate support, such as trainers or walking boots.

Read more about choosing sports shoes and trainers.

People over the age of 60 can also benefit from regular weight-bearing exercise. This can include brisk walking, keep-fit classes or a game of tennis. Swimming and cycling aren't weight-bearing exercises, however.

Read more about the physical activity guidelines for older adults.

Resistance exercises

Resistance exercises use muscle strength, where the action of the tendons pulling on the bones boosts bone strength. Examples include press-ups, weightlifting or using weight equipment at a gym.

If you've recently joined a gym or haven't been for a while, your gym will probably offer you an induction. This involves being shown how to use the equipment and having exercise techniques recommended to you.

Always ask an instructor for help if you're not sure how to use a piece of gym equipment or how to do a particular exercise.

Read more about exercise and bone health.

Healthy eating

Eating a healthy balanced diet is recommended for everyone. It can help prevent many serious health conditions, including heart diseasediabetes and many forms of cancer, as well as osteoporosis.

Calcium is important for maintaining strong bones. The recommended intake of calcium is at least 700mg a day. This is about the equivalent of one pint of milk.

Calcium can also be found in a number of different foods, including leafy green vegetables, dried fruit, tofu and yoghurt.

Vitamin D is also important for healthy bones and teeth because it helps your body absorb calcium. Vitamin D can be found in eggsmilk and oily fish.

However, most vitamin D is made in the skin in response to sunlight. Short exposure to sunlight without wearing sunscreen (10 minutes twice a day) throughout the summer should provide you with enough vitamin D for the whole year.

Certain groups of people may be at risk of not getting enough vitamin D. These include:

  • people who are housebound or particularly frail
  • people with a poor diet
  • people who keep covered up in sunlight because they wear total sun block or adhere to a certain dress code
  • women who are pregnant or breastfeeding

If you're at risk of not getting enough vitamin D through your diet or lifestyle, you can take a vitamin D supplement. For adults, 10 micrograms a day of vitamin D is recommended.

The recommended amount for children is 7 micrograms for babies under six months, and 8.5 micrograms for children aged six months to three years. Talk to your GP for more information.

Read more about healthy eating and vitamins for children.

Other factors

Other lifestyle factors that can help prevent osteoporosis include:

Read more about healthy bones on the National Osteoporosis Society website.   

Page last reviewed: 23/04/2014

Next review due: 23/04/2016

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Boost your health and fitness with fun and practical ideas to get active and improve your general health

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