Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Your body needs vitamin D to help it absorb calcium needed for strong bones.

Your body needs vitamin D to help it absorb calcium needed for strong bones.
beginning of content

Healthy bones

4-minute read

From your 30s onwards, our bones gradually lose their density as a natural part of ageing.

Osteoporosis is a condition that affects the bones, causing them to become weak and fragile and more likely to break (fracture). It has no symptoms so the first clue may be that you fracture a bone.

Whether you have osteoporosis or just want to build strong bones for the future, there are several things you can do to maintain your bones.

Eat calcium-rich foods

Calcium is important for maintaining strong bones. Most people need at least 3 serves of calcium rich food a day. A serving size is a glass of milk (250ml), tub of yoghurt (200g) or a slice of cheese (40g).

If you can't get the recommended amount of calcium from your diet you may need to take a calcium supplement, particularly if you have low bone density. Osteoporosis Australia recommends taking a maximum of 500mg to 600mg of calcium per day. Talk to your doctor about whether you need a calcium supplement and what the right dose is for you.

Get your sunshine quota

Your body needs vitamin D to help it absorb calcium. Vitamin D is found in oily fish, liver, fortified spreads and cereals, and egg yolks. Your body also makes its own vitamin D when you're exposed to sunshine.

To produce enough vitamin D, most Australians only need a few minutes a day of sunlight during summer and a couple of hours of sun exposure spread over the week while during winter. The amount of exposure to sunlight needed depends on your skin type (darker skin requires longer exposure), the time of year, where you live and your lifestyle. Overexposure to sunlight can damage your skin and increase your risk of skin cancer. Visit the Cancer Council website for more information on vitamin D and safe sun exposure requirements.

Eat a balanced diet

Keep your diet balanced. Your meals should contain protein (meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds), fresh fruit and vegetables, and carbohydrates (bread, pasta, potatoes and rice).

Quit smoking

The more you smoke, the more likely you'll get osteoporosis. Aim to cut down or, better still, quit smoking altogether. A great place to start is to check out the Department of Health website or call the Quitline on 13 7848.

The My QuitBuddy app is a personalised interactive app that provides helpful tips and distractions to overcome cravings, tracking systems to chart your progress and the facts to help you understand the impact smoking has on your health.

Cut out salt

Salt is thought to speed up the body's loss of calcium. So try to limit your daily salt intake to the recommended amount. Australian adults are recommended to consume is less 2000mg of sodium a day — that’s less than a teaspoon of salt.

Try not to add salt to your food, flavouring with herbs or a squeeze of lemon juice can be a good substitute.

Looking at nutrition labels can also help you reduce your salt intake. Look for foods with 120mg sodium or less per 100g. Crisps, ham, cheese, cooking sauces and processed foods such as pies, pizza and soups are all high in salt.

Be active

Bones get stronger when you use them. A great way to strengthen them is with weight-bearing exercise. This includes walking, running, dancing, golf or tennis. It doesn't include cycling or swimming (although swimming is good for staying flexible).

Bones also benefit if you lift and carry things. Weight training is ideal, but carrying shopping, gardening and housework all count. If you are new to exercise it's a good idea to talk to your doctor before you take up any new exercise activity, to make sure it's right for you.

Drink sensibly

Alcohol, tea, coffee, cola and other soft drinks reduce the amount of calcium you absorb, and weaken bones. Stick to the recommended amounts of alcohol, and swap your caffeine-fueled drinks for water.

Maintain a healthy weight

Being underweight is a risk factor for osteoporosis.

Losing too much weight too fast under a crash diet can increase your risk of osteoporosis. The same is true if you're anorexic (or, for women, if you're so thin that your periods have stopped).

Being underweight can affect the amount of oestrogen (a hormone that helps to protect your bones) in your body. If you need to lose weight, do it sensibly.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2020


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Vitamin D - maintaining levels in winter (video) - Better Health Channel

Vitamin D is important for healthy bones, muscles and the nervous system.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Bone markers - Lab Tests Online AU

How and why Bone Markers are used

Read more on Lab Tests Online AU website

Exercise

Regular physical activity and exercise plays an important role in maintaining healthy bones. Exercise is recognised as one of the most effective lifestyle strategies to help make bones as strong as possible, reducing the risk of fractures later in life. As well as improving or maintaining bone density, exercise increases the size, strength and capacity of muscles. Exercise must be regular and ongoing to have a proper benefit.

Read more on Osteoporosis Australia website

Healthy ageing in your fifties - myDr.com.au

Fight the effects of ageing in your fifties by improving your muscle strength, aerobic capacity, flexibility and bone strength and boosting your immune system.

Read more on myDr website

Bone mineral density tests - myDr.com.au

Bone mineral density testing assesses the mineral content of your bones. Low bone mineral density - osteopenia or osteoporosis - makes bones weak.

Read more on myDr website

Primary bone cancer: Overview | Cancer Council Victoria

Learn more about primary bone cancer (also known as bone sarcoma) including risk factors, symptoms and how it is diagnosed.

Read more on Cancer Council Victoria website

Prevention | Osteoporosis Australia

What can I do to prevent osteoporosis? You can take action to maintain and improve your bone health at every stage of life. Adequate calcium intake, propervitamin D levels (to help absorb calcium) and specific exercises are all important for healthy bones.For people with low bone density or osteoporosis these 3 factors are veryimportant.

Read more on Osteoporosis Australia website

Secondary Bone Cancer | Cancer Council Victoria

This information has been prepared to help you understand more about secondary bone cancer. It includes basic information about how secondary bone cancer is diagnosed and treated.

Read more on Cancer Council Victoria website

Exercise to prevent osteoporosis - myDr.com.au

Regular weight-bearing exercise and strength (resistance) training can help improve your bone density and decrease your risk of osteoporosis.

Read more on myDr website

Paget's disease of bone - myDr.com.au

Paget's disease of bone is characterised by repeated episodes of increased bone resorption followed by excessive attempts at repair.

Read more on myDr website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo