No Sun, No Problem: Keeping Your Bones Strong During the Winter
Keeping your bones healthy and strong should be a year-round priority. However, it becomes increasingly important to be diligent about your bone health during the winter, as vitamin D or the "sunshine vitamin" isn't as readily available when the sun takes a break for a few months.
Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption in the gut and helps maintain normal bone remodeling, keeping your bone structure strong. The daily recommendation for vitamin D for those ages 1-70 years is 15 mcg or 600 IU. Those older than 70 years old should aim for 20 mcg or 800 IU.
So, how can you keep your bones strong during the winter months, when sunny-filled days are at a minimum?
- Supplementing: Few foods have a high concentration of vitamin D, so the majority of our vitamin D intake is derived from the sun. This makes winter a good time to talk with your doctor about trying a vitamin D supplement to help achieve your optimum vitamin D levels.
- Eating Calcium-Rich Foods: Aside from vitamin D, calcium is another nutrient that helps keep bones strong. Incorporating calcium-rich foods into your diet isn't too challenging, as you can choose from a wide range of foods to meet your daily needs. Click here to learn more about daily calcium recommendations and how to obtain this through your diet!
- Exercise: For many, it becomes more difficult to maintain a regular exercise schedule during the winter months. Find a way to stay active even when you can’t get outside as often. Need some ideas? Click here for a few examples of weight-bearing exercises specifically designed with bone health in mind!
- Cut Out Smoking and Limit Caffeine: Habits such as smoking and high caffeine intake also affect your bones. Smoking makes you more vulnerable to weak bones because it restricts blood flow, which is responsible for bringing nutrients to your bones. Caffeine can inhibit the absorption of calcium, again, weakening your bones. You don’t have to completely remove caffeine from your diet, but avoid having caffeine and calcium-rich foods together in order to ensure proper calcium absorption.
While the shorter, darker, winter days may make it more difficult to get your recommended levels of vitamin D from the sun, taking a vitamin D supplement (at your physician's discretion), eating calcium-rich foods, staying active, and limiting habits that decrease calcium absorption can help you maintain good bone health year-round!
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