We might be cooped up indoors, but it shouldn’t be an excuse to sit around all day – as tempting as that is.
‘Staying active helps to keep bones strong and healthy,’ says osteopath Jess Roberts, founder of Unity-wellness.com.
In fact, research suggests that walking the recommended 10,000 steps a day could be enough to prevent osteoporosis – a condition when bones become so weak they fracture easily.
Jess also suggests adding in weight-bearing and balancing exercises too. It’s time to get creative and use household items as your gym ‘equipment’.
1. Make the most of your time outside
A 30-minute brisk walk could take you up to 4,000 steps. If you can walk for 60 minutes, even better! If the sun is out, you’ll also be getting much-needed vitamin D, essential for bone health.
2. The handbag grab
Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip distance apart, with your handbag in front of you on the floor. Bend at the hips to reach forward to pick up the bag, bending your knees slightly.
Breathe in as you stand up tall, then lower the bag back down to the floor as you exhale. Repeat 10 times, making sure you keep your upper body straight.
3. Use the stairs
Unless you live in a bungalow, your staircase can become your exercise machine. Aim to walk up and down them as often as you can during the day.
4. Balance on one leg while brushing your teeth
Keep a slight bend in the standing leg, and switch legs halfway through. ‘This strengthens the muscles and connecting tissues around the bones, and helps with proprioception (awareness of your body in space) which can prevent falls that could lead to fractures in future,’ says Jess.
5. Chair squat
Sit on a chair with your feet hip distance apart and pressed firmly into the ground. Aim to stand up out of the chair and then sit back down without using your hands to help.
Repeat 10 times, putting emphasis on moving slowly. For added weight, you could hold bottles of water or tin cans in your hands as you move.
6. Worktop push-up
Stand about one foot away from your kitchen side and reach out to place your hands firmly on the edge of the worktop, a little bit wider than shoulder width apart.
As you inhale, bend your elbows and lower your chest towards the worktop while keeping your elbows close to your body, then exhale to straighten your arms again, keeping your back and neck neutral as you do so. Repeat up to 20 times.
7. Eat for your bones
‘Bones, like all living tissue, need adequate nutrition for proper growth,’ says nutritionist Dr Marilyn Glenville. Here’s what you should eat and avoid…
8. Dairy isn’t the answer…
We know calcium is good for our bones, but milk and cheese aren’t always the best sources because they create an acid environment in the body, which actually absorbs calcium. ‘The more acidic your diet becomes the more calcium can be leached from your bones,’ warns Dr Marilyn.
…so try leafy green veg
Instead, opt for veg like broccoli and kale which are fantastic sources of calcium and they contain vitamin K and C, both crucial for bone health. ‘People who have a diet rich in fruit and veg have been shown to maintain good bone density,’ adds Dr Marilyn.
9. Try apple cider vinegar
‘There is interesting research into the effects of adding apple cider vinegar to foods,’ says Dr Marilyn. When vinegar is consumed it becomes alkaline, which allows the bones to absorb more calcium. Use in salad dressings or add a tablespoon to water to sip.
10. Avoid fizzy drinks
The high levels of phosphorus in carbonated drinks can make your body think it doesn’t have enough calcium. When that happens, it takes calcium from bones and teeth to balance things out – but this can weaken bones over time.
11. Cut down on meat
Research suggests that people who eat a diet with more plant protein – like beans, lentils and tofu – have better bone density than those who eat meat, because meat is one of the most acid producing foods.
12. Cut down on coffee
Alarmingly, ‘drinking two cups of coffee a day can significantly increase the risk of hip fracture,’ says Dr Marilyn, because caffeine absorbs calcium from bones. Aim to stick to just the one cup, or switch to tea, which contains less caffeine.
13. Sunshine foods
Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium. While we get most of it from exposing our skin to the sun, it’s worth upping your intake in foods rich in the vitamin, like salmon, eggs and mushrooms. Or try a supplement such as Vitamin D3, £11.95 for 30 capsules. from LinkNutrition.com.
– Dr Marilyn Glenville PhD is the UK’s leading nutritionist specialising in women’s health. Visit Marilynglenville.com for more information.