Healthy Eating & Physical Activity for:
healthy bones and muscles
This fact sheet aims to identify the main age-related changes and conditions affecting bones and muscles; it will also outline healthy eating and physical activity that may help prevent, or delay, onset of these changes/conditions.
- Reduction in bone mass (osteopenia) which may lead to osteoporosis.
- Reduction in muscle mass, which reduces energy requirements, reduces potential physically activity, and adversely affects balance.
- Stiffening of joints and muscles, which reduces potential physically activity, reduces flexibility and adversely affects balance.
Key nutrients to maintain healthy muscles and bones are:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin K
Vitamin D, calcium and phosphorous all work together to create healthy bones; vitamin K, magnesium and protein also play a part. Carbohydrates, protein, water and calcium all contribute to muscle function and maintaining muscle mass.
This table provides a rough guide to foods containing key micronutrients with the approximate % of daily requirement (%DR); this is not a comprehensive list.
Did you know?
Peak bone mass is achieved at age 30 for most adults; bone loss due to ageing then starts, with decline more rapid in females.
Foods to eat
The best foods to eat to obtain all the nutrients essential to maintaining healthy bones and muscles include:
- Vegetables (particularly leafy greens)
- Lean animal proteins and/or plant proteins
- Oily fish
- Tinned fish (which includes bones)
- Dairy products
- Nuts and seeds
Main Factors adversely affecting bone and muscle health
- Smoking and excess alcohol – contribute to weakening bones and muscles.
- Race – risk of osteoporosis is increased in those of white or Asian descent.
- Family history – risk of osteoporosis is increased if you have a parent or sibling with osteoporosis.
- Age – risk of osteoporosis and muscle loss (sarcopenia) increases with age.
- Gender – females have a higher risk of osteoporosis than males.
- Physical inactivity
- Too much salt – can cause tight muscles and muscle cramps.
- Medications – some medications increase risk of osteoporosis e.g. long term use of corticosteroids – ask your GP.
- Hormones – increased risk of osteoporosis with too much thyroid hormone, reduced oestrogen (women) and low testosterone (men).
- Excess or insufficient calorie intake and/orinsufficient protein intake contribute to muscle loss.
- Over 50? Medical condition? – consult a GP before starting an exercise programme.
- Engage a personal trainer; optimise YOUR needs, and YOUR health.
- Warm up before exercise and cool down after.
- Do exercises correctly to reduce risk of injury.
There are two types of physical activity: strength/resistance and cardiovascular. Keeping physically active is essential to maintaining bone and muscle health.
Strength exercises are particularly important for older adults to maintain muscle strength, balance, and flexibility; weight bearing activities help maintain bone health.
Muscles strengthening exercise should be done at least twice per week, and focus on total-body strength with an emphasis on improving balance, stability, and flexibility.