Aussie women are a tough bunch, with more than one in 10 saying they reached their optimal strength levels after the age of forty!
According to new research by Ostelin, released to mark National Vitamin D Awareness Day, this could be due to their commitment to exercise, with more than one in 10 (12%) Aussie women exercising every single day.
While these results are pleasing and suggest that older Australian women share a commitment to defying stereotypes, what is not so pleasing is their attitude towards Vitamin D and bone health.
Despite almost one in four Australians being Vitamin D deficient, a third of Aussie women said Vitamin D was of little or no importance to them.
With Vitamin D playing a crucial role in the development and maintenance of strong bones, it's no surprise that their attitude towards bone health was equally as lacklustre.
According to the research, when asked about the importance of bone health, almost a quarter (23%) of Australian women said they had more pressing concerns to worry about, while others naively believe that bone health issues only impact the elderly.
Strong bones are one of the pillars of optimal health and given we reach peak bone mass around the age of 20 -30, it needs to be a consideration from as young as childhood.
So, to encourage behavior change and to help create a healthier and stronger Australia, Ostelin offers the following tips to help Australian women safeguard their bone health during the ages.
Best Ways To Mind Your Bones Through The Decades: Strong Bones at Any Age
Dose of D – Vitamin D plays a vital role in the body's calcium absorption which is critical for bone health and muscle function. The best source of vitamin D is natural and safe sun exposure, so get out and about and enjoy the fresh air.
In winter, getting between 7-30 minutes of daily safe sun exposure at midday will help maintain vitamin D levels for those with fair skin, but this time does vary depending on season, location and skin type.
Consume Calcium – Calcium is crucial to the development and maintenance of healthy bones. The body also uses calcium for the health and functioning of nerve and muscle tissue, so it's important that you consume enough of this important nutrient on a regular basis.
Calcium can be found in a wide range of dairy foods including milk, yoghurt and cheese. Non-dairy sources include cabbage, kale, broccoli, sardines, tinned salmon and tofu.
Get Moving – The benefits of regular exercise are many and varied, but it can also help maintain your bone health. In fact, the best form of exercise to help maintain healthy bones and muscle function are -weight bearing' exercises. These exercises force you to work against gravity and include activities such as walking, hiking, jogging, dancing and stair climbing.
Weight Up - One of the very best forms of weight bearing exercise is weight training, but this doesn't mean you have to become a power lifter overnight. Simply include small or large weights to your exercise, depending on your strength and capability.
Just remember, building strong bones doesn't require difficult or strenuous exercise. Even light weights such as 1kg or 2kg hand weights can have a positive impact on your bone health. Simply adding hand weights to your morning or evening walk will be helping to create a stronger you.
Top Tips through the Ages
In your Twenties: While most people will reach their maximum bone strength and density between the ages of 25 and 30, healthy lifestyle practices during your 20s can have a positive influence on your bone mass and ensure good bone health for later years.
Weight bearing exercises are most beneficial for building strong bones. However, to get the most out of these activities and to challenge bones and muscles, 20-something women (and men) should vary their exercise routine and ensure that it increases over time. Do this by increasing the degree of exercise difficulty, the amount of weight used or the height of jumps.
In your Thirties: The main role of exercise for bone health in your thirties is to maintain the bone density and strength that was built up in the years prior - and minimise bone loss as they grow older. To boost bone health post-30, avoid smoking, drink no more than 2-3 cups of coffee a day and consume no more than two standard alcoholic beverages a day, with at least two alcohol-free days each week.
In your Forties: As you enter your 40s you start to very gradually lose bone density. This is especially relevant for women after the age of 45+ when bone loss begins to increase to 1-2% per year. Making positive changes to diet and lifestyle can help maintain bone health for the future including eating calcium rich foods, adding weight training to your exercise routine, moderating caffeine and alcohol intake, and consider taking a vitamin D supplement if you are not getting sufficient sun exposure.
In your Fifties (and beyond) : Bone loss usually speeds up during the 50s for both men and women, although it tends to happen more quickly for women. This is because estrogen, which has a protective effect on bone density, declines rapidly in women during menopause.
Fifty-something women will benefit from the same lifestyle habits as other decades (i.e. calcium intake, vitamin D levels, staying active etc.). However, it is also important to maintain a healthy body weight as a thin body build or excessive weight can impact on bone health and increase the risk of osteoporosis. It is also recommended that women over 50 with a family history of osteoporosis, who are on certain mediation or have other risk factors, consult their healthcare professional for a bone density scan.
Question: Why is it that one in four Aussies women have been tested and are deficient in vitamin D or require supplements?
Professor Robin Daly: Vitamin D deficiency is far too common in Australia, with many clueless to the important role that vitamin D plays in building and maintaining bone health.
A recent survey from leading vitamin D brand, Ostelin, revealed that one in four Australian women who have been tested have either been diagnosed with a deficiency in vitamin D, or require vitamin D supplements.
Further findings from the research showed that one in five had no idea what the benefits of vitamin D were, while close to a third (31%) admitted they are not concerned about ensuring they get enough vitamin D.
Question: Why is it important that we are not vitamin D deficient?
Professor Robin Daly: Vitamin D plays a crucial role in the development and maintenance of strong, healthy bones and as most people reach peak bone mass around the age of 20 to 30, it is essential that we maintain sufficient levels at every age to prevent future conditions such as Osteoporosis.
Furthermore, a number of pregnant women may not be aware of the importance of vitamin D during pregnancy for both the mother and also the baby's bone development.
Question: What symptoms are associated with vitamin D deficiency?
Professor Robin Daly: A mild vitamin D deficiency can often have no symptoms, but some people may experience fatigue, muscle weakness and in more severe cases, deficiency can lead to soft bones (referred to as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults) and brittle bones (osteoporosis).
Question: How often should we be tested for vitamin D deficiency?
Professor Robin Daly: While there are currently no Australian or international guidelines around routine testing for vitamin D deficiency, you should speak to your GP if you suspect you may be at risk, or if you identify with the risk factors. You can assess your level of risk by taking the Ostelin D–Test at https://ostelin.com.au/test-yourself/.
Question: How much safe sun exposure is required to maintain vitamin D levels?
Professor Robin Daly: During winter in Australia, getting outdoors for approximately 7-30 minutes at midday each day will help maintain Vitamin D levels, although this does vary depending on season, location and skin type.
With our increasingly deskbound lifestyles and limited sunlight during winter, it's important to prioritise safe sun exposure by exercising outdoors, having lunch outside or even incorporate walking meetings into your day.
Question: What is 'safe sun exposure"?
Professor Robin Daly: Safe sun exposure means a few minutes mid-morning or mid-afternoon during summer and longer (up to 30 minutes) midday during winter and then ensuring sun protection.
Remember to follow the recommended guidelines for daily sun exposure according to the season and your skin type. When the UV index exceeds 3, sun protection is recommended but when the UV index is below 3, sun protection is not required.
Question: Why is it important to build bone strength at all ages?
Professor Robin Daly: Many believe that brittle bones only affect the elderly, but as peak bone mass is reached around the age of 20 to 30 and deteriorates progressively thereafter, building and maintaining strong bones from childhood may be the most effective strategy to prevent future conditions such as Osteoporosis. Indeed, Osteoporosis is often considered a paediatric disease with geriatric consequences. A 10% increase in our peak bone mass can delay the development of osteoporosis by up to 13 years.
Question: How can we build bone strength, easily?
Professor Robin Daly: As there are fewer hours of natural sunlight available to us throughout the winter months, I encourage people to incorporate outdoor exercise into their routines to ensure they are maximising the opportunity to get their vitamin D fix.
Studies have shown that moderate to high-impact exercises like running, stair climbing, tennis and basketball are the most effective for optimal bone health and these can all easily be performed outdoors.
Even if it's just a few minutes each day, bringing exercise and the outdoors together gives you a greater chance of bolstering your vitamin D levels and supporting healthy bones.
Calcium is also crucial to the development and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth, so it's important to ensure that you and your family are consuming enough of this common nutrient.
Interview by Brooke Hunter