X-Ray of rheumatoid arthritis in the hand

Factors affecting bone strength

What we eat and how much we move about affects how strong our bones are

Nutrition

High-calcium foods and drinks like cheese and milk help raise peak bone mass, a key factor in delaying the onset of osteoporosis. More than two-thirds of bone by weight is made of calcium phosphate crystals embedded in the matrix that bone cells build.

Vitamin D is important too, because it helps calcium absorption. We make most of the vitamin D we need through exposure to sunlight.

Darker skin takes more time in sunlight to make vitamin D than lighter skin, so some dark-skinned people living in temperate countries may need extra vitamin D in their diet to make up for the lack of strong sunlight.

Exercise

Like muscle, bone is a living tissue that gets stronger in response to exercise. However, not all types of exercise offer the same benefits – weight-bearing exercise is best. Jumping strengthens bones more than running, for example, because it places bones under a greater load. 

Lead image:

Wellcome Images/Flickr CC BY NC

References

About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Exercise, Energy and Movement’ in January 2012 and reviewed and updated in August 2016.

Topics:
Cell biology, Physiology, Health, infection and disease
Issue:
Exercise, Energy and Movement
Education levels:
14–16, 16–19, Continuing professional development