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Nathalie Lennon: Let’s talk Bone Health!

26 Jul 2018

Let’s talk Bone Health!

by Nathalie Lennon

Working as a personal trainer and online coach over the last few years, it seems to me that often external appearance can take over from what’s really important, our internal health!

With new diets and trends consistently brought to the fore and highlighted for their physical progression benefits, our internal organ functioning, micro nutrient absorption, muscle strength and bone health are too often forgotten about in the race for those “#SummerAbs”. I have learned that health starts within! If we look after what’s inside, the external results will follow, and last you a lifetime rather than a short term fix.

If you’ve been following my journey along Instagram (@nat_tilly), you’ll know I put myself at risk of developing early osteoporosis at just 24 years of age as I was extremely active teaching classes and personal training, but under-fuelling my activity. I forgot to ensure I included all food groups in my diet, as well as meet my daily calcium requirements. As a result, my bone density fell to a lower than average point for my age, a scary realisation. To help get this back to normal levels, I have been ensuring I include each food group every day with a specific focus on dairy, whilst getting enough fuel, and hit my calcium intake without fail!

It’s important to realise that it’s not only the elderly population that need to look after their bone health, but it is just as important for younger generations too. Especially in an era where exercise, training and long endurance events are becoming quite popular, we need to ensure that we adequately fuel our body’s and protect our bone health while we train. It is NOW that you have the opportunity to strengthen your bones, muscles and body as a whole, so that it can allow you to live the best quality of life possible for years to follow! So what exactly is it that you need to be aware of, to optimise your bone health?

Calcium & Vitamin D

Calcium is a mineral that is needed for numerous functions internally, one of utmost importance being bone health. 99% of the bodies calcium is found in our bones and teeth. Adequate vitamin D intake is necessary for the absorption and utilisation of the calcium we ingest, so make sure to supply your body with both.

Did you know that bones are living tissue and throughout our lifetime bone is constantly being broken down and re-built through a fancy process called “remodelling”, by an even fancier group of cells called osteoblasts and osteoclasts.

Why must we ensure that calcium is a lifelong dietary mineral of which requirements are met?

In normal healthy individuals, bone production is greater than bone destruction up until the age of approximately 30, when peak bone mass is reached then destruction gradually starts to take the lead. If peak bone mass is low, this loss of bone mass is a process that sadly we can’t stop from occurring due to a number of factors (age, genetics, activity levels & hormones). This is when osteoporosis may begin to develop (the weakening of bones and increased risk of fracture/breaks).

BUT fear not, here’s the good news!

We can support a strong foundation of bone tissue by reaching our adequate calcium requirements and maximising our bone strength in the years prior to this!

Over exercising at a young age without ensuring you are providing your body with enough nutrients such as Calcium & Vitamin D is a dangerous situation that I experienced first-hand, and sadly I am not alone. If calcium levels in the blood are too low, the body reacts by “pulling” calcium from the bones, which should be replaced at a later stage but it doesn’t always happen, especially if we don’t provide the body with enough levels to do so.

This may put your bones at risk, at a time where aiming to build strong bones is of utmost importance. If you enter the years after 30 with a bone mass that is already below average, you could seriously be sacrificing your quality of life as you grow old.

How can you look after your bone health?

Resistance training alongside a balanced diet, will set you up for a kick ass quality of adulthood life! Here are some tips to help you along the way!

Calcium Sources

  • The recommended daily allowance according to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland is 800mg/day, increasing to 1200mg in some cases (such as pregnancy).
  • Three servings of dairy a day will help meet your calcium needs! A serving may be:
  1. 200ml of milk (whole, semi-skimmed, or skimmed)
  2. 125g of yogurt (whole or low-fat)
  3. 25g of cheddar cheese

I have shared numerous recipes on my page to help you easily include dairy in your dishes/baked treats, and there are plenty more in our cooking tab for you to check out!

Vitamin D Sources

  • That big bright balloon in the sky is a great source of Vitamin D. When the sun shines on our skin, we create this vitamin. However not all sunlight is equal and Ireland is not always blessed in this department.
  • You can improve your intake through dietary sources such as fortified milk, oily fish & egg yolks.
  • Supplementation of vitamin D may be considered if you still struggle to reach an adequate intake considering the above, aiming to reach 400IU of vitamin D a day (always check your labels for the amount present).

Resistance Training

  • Regular participation in weight bearing activities (such as walking, jogging, weight lifting & stair climbing) can help your bones retain their density as we age, or even increase their density.
  • Variety is key when considering regular exercise. The only bones strengthened will be those put under a degree of stress, so try switch things up to hit all areas!

Have you got some equipment at home or a gym session planned later? Here is a great full body workout I like to do to get your heart thumping, bones strengthened and fitness levels improving! Remember you can simplify each move with lighter weights, or taking away the jumps!

There are 6 exercises in this full body HIIT session, and you should aim to perform 5 rounds of 40 seconds on, and 20 seconds off. Give them a go!

  1. Double Broad Jump with Run Back
  2. Aeroplane Push Ups
  3. 180 Degree Burpee
  4. Shoot Through with Heel Taps
  5. In/Out Push ups
  6. 180 Degree Jump Squats

Nathalie Lennon is a Personal Trainer, Online Coach and Ambassador for The Complete Natural. You can find more from Nathalie on Instagram and YouTube