health

"When two women in my life fell, I realised one thing about my own bones."

Dairy Australia
Thanks to our brand partner, Dairy Australia

A few years ago, I was at a restaurant enjoying a glass of wine with my fiancé when he received a call from his dad. His mum had tripped down the front steps and broken her leg. It was a small moment in time that had a huge impact on her life. She missed the holiday which she had been packing the car for, she was forced to stop going for her evening walk with friends (which was as much for mental fitness as it was for physical) and as a result she gained weight and her overall health deteriorated.

She wasn’t even 60.

Prior to this, I had associated bone breakage with two groups of people – overzealous children on the monkey bars or frail, elderly people who were unsteady on their feet. Certainly not my seemingly fit and healthy mother-in-law.

Now, I’ve never been one to be enormously engaged in nutrition and health. I love the outdoors and eat a balanced diet but I have never paid too much attention to the nutritional content of it however recently, I visited my parents-in-laws’ and walking down those steps, I stumbled and realised that I’d almost repeated history.

Later that week, my nan who was on holidays with my parents, had a fall. This wasn’t unusual – she’s been growing less steady on her feet – but sadly, this time she broke her hip. Through her recovery I’m seeing my nan lose some of her independence and so too my mum and aunty as they move more actively into roles as supporters and carers.

It’s also brought me closer to understanding the importance of strong foundations in my bones and has prompted me to make some changes.

What is weight-bearing exercise? I had a Google, and it's easier than you think. Image: Unsplash/Filip Mroz

I’m not in the position to make huge life changes - I have two small children, commute three hours for work each day and like most of the people my age, am exhausted just thinking about opening a can of baked beans, let alone making wholly nutritious meals every night! But, I have been able to bring more awareness into my day to day, that is serving as a preventative measure for my bones deteriorating as I get older.

ADVERTISEMENT

I googled 'strong bones' and found the healthybones.com.au website.  Here they have lots of suggestions for increasing bone strength. Many of them I can’t take on with gusto (remember; the commute… the kids… life); but the top three, I can (in fact I combined two of them so it’s only two things that I have to do!).  These are:

1. Increase daily serves of calcium. One of the easiest ways is through milk, cheese or yoghurt - two and a half to four serves a day is the recommended amount depending on your age and gender;

2. Regular physical activity, especially weight-bearing exercise. This includes walking, jogging, running, skipping, jumping, dancing, gymnastics, netball, basketball, football, soccer and lifting weights;

3. Spend time outdoors to get more vitamin D, while of course being sun safe.

Here's what I'm trying to do more of:

1. Snacking with my kids.

It’s a bit ridiculous but I have been way more engaged in what I’m feeding my kids, than what I am feeding myself. I make sure they have a balance of fruits, vegetables, dairy, nuts and carbs in their snacks but when it comes to myself, I reach for whatever is closest (or hide in the pantry and stuff down three bits of chocolate hoping that the kids don’t catch me). So now, when I am preparing their snacks, I prepare mine too.

Seeing all of those little zip lock bags and tupperware containers lined up ready to go, makes me feel like mum of the year and now that I’ve double the volume by making snacks for myself I feel like even more of a winner.

2. Eating more protein-rich, calcium-rich foods.

If my husband has a complaint about how we eat, it’s that we don’t eat enough protein. It’s because I don’t love that feeling of being too full and I always feel exhausted after a meal heavy with protein but we’ve found a compromise.

We now supplement heavier proteins like meat, with protein-rich foods like cheese, which I find easier to portion control. So we’ll make a pesto pasta dish (packed with calcium-rich parmesan) and he’ll add meat but I’ll add feta. That way everyone is happy and I feel like we're all giving our bodies more of what they need.

As far as helping my bone health in the long term, dairy foods are one of the richest dietary sources of calcium. So cheese in our pasta it is!

bone-density-tips
I'm all about the no-fuss, small and easy swaps. Image: Getty.
ADVERTISEMENT

3. Getting out in the sun.

I had no idea prior to looking into bone strength that Vitamin D is essential for strong bones as it aids with calcium absorption. The best source of Vitamin D is the sun. This realisation coincided with the onset of spring and my colleagues asking me why I never left my desk for lunch.

So now (I still don’t leave my desk for lunch - no big changes remember?), I walk to meetings that are less than 15 minutes away or say ‘yes’ when I’m invited to eat lunch in the park (sunscreen on if it's a longer time in the sun, of course).

I doubled down on the benefits here by taking the two very long flights of stairs every time I leave the office, rather than the lift.  This has been an easy way to include weight-bearing exercise without it feeling like too much of an effort. These little lunch interludes leave me feeling refreshed but also like a smug health hero knowing that I’m strengthening my bones too!

The other thing I’ve done is have this conversation with my mum. Like my mother-in-law, mum is healthy, eats a well-balanced diet and is much fitter than me but the realisation that something which can have such a major life impact is actually preventable, has made me want to make some little changes to my lifestyle habits and bring others along the ride with me.

Mum already does regular exercise (she visits the gym, walks and goes to yoga) but she has now also increased the proportion of weight-bearing exercises in her regime.  And that, along with vitamin D and calcium intake, is a great way to keep those bones strong - for life.

This content is brought to you with thanks by our brand partner, Dairy Australia.

What do you do to help your bone health? Tell us in a comment below.

Dairy Australia

Our bones make everyday things possible – getting out of bed, walking the dog, a night out with friends. Building and maintaining strong bones means we can keep doing what we do today, into the future. Three simple actions for bone health can make a difference – adequate calcium, weight bearing exercise and vitamin D from the sun. Learn more about these actions and common bone FAQs here.
Dairy Australia is the national services body for the dairy industry. It is an independent, not-for-profit organisation whose purpose is to help dairy farmers adapt to a changing environment and achieve a sustainable industry.

FROM OUR NETWORK
00:00 / ???