Just changing your diet can keep your bones strong as you age, reveals study

Scientists reveal that diet could be more effective than exercise at maintaining good bone health as you grow old

A woman looks happy as she exercises outdoors holding a water bottle
(Image credit: Getty)

Humans gain peak bone mass in their 20s and then this starts to decline. Having strong bones is essential for moving around and for completing everyday tasks, hence why it is important to maintain bone mass and strength as you age.

People often associate physical exercise as the main means to building and maintaining strong bones. Weight bearing exercises such as jogging or hiking (you should always consider wearing protective footwear such as the best shoes for walking) are recommended as well as resistance exercises such as adding a set of adjustable dumbbells into your workouts.

However, a research team from the University of Michigan had a study published in the PLOS journal revealing that nutrition has a more significant impact on bone mass and strength than exercise does.

The study that was carried out on mice, investigated the effect of a long-term mineral-supplemented diet on preventing the loss of bone mass and strength with age. They specifically increased the intake of calcium and phosphorus.

As the study progressed, the researchers were surprised to also discover that when the exercise element of the testing stopped the mice still retained bone strength gains, as long as they were still consuming a mineral-supplemented diet.

David Kohn a professor at the University of Michigan said, "The data suggests the long-term consumption of the mineral-supplemented diet could be beneficial in preventing the loss of bone and strength with age, even if you don't do exercise training."

Person poring out vitamins onto their hand

(Image credit: Getty)

Kohn explained that despite the fact that the study was conducted on mice, this information is still applicable to humans. 

"If you think about the progression to humans, diet is easier for someone to carry on as they get older and stop exercising, rather than the continuation of exercise itself," said Kohn.

He also highlights that this doesn't mean everyone should go out and buy calcium and phosphorus supplements. But it gives an indication that we can all look into our diet more when trying to protect our bodies as we age.

You can start by ensuring you are eating foods rich in calcium (milk, yoghurt and dark leafy green vegetables) and vitamin D (red meat, egg yolks and mushrooms). Getting enough protein is essential as it makes up nearly half of the volume of bone and approximately one-third of its mass.

Dietary proteins are essential for bone health but if you can't source enough of this in the foods you eat then using a best protein powder for women can help with this.

Despite nutrition playing a massive role in maintaining bone mass and strength, regular exercise is still very important to try and keep up with. 

As mentioned earlier on, it can be in the form of a light run or by adding some resistance into training (such as using a best resistance band) but putting your body to work is an essential building block for maintaining good bone health.

Jessica Downey

Jessica is an experienced fitness writer with a passion for running. Her career in journalism began in local news and she holds a Masters in journalism. Jessica has previously written for Runners World, penning news and features on fitness, sportswear and nutrition. 

When she isn't writing up news and features for Fit&Well covering topics ranging from muscle building, to yoga, to female health and so on, she will be outdoors somewhere, testing out the latest fitness equipment and accessories to help others find top products for their own fitness journeys. Her testing pairs up nicely with her love for running. She recently branched out to running 10Ks and is trying to improve her time before moving on to larger races. Jessica also enjoys building on her strength in the gym and is a believer in health and wellness beginning in the kitchen. She shares all of this on her running Instagram account @jessrunshere which she uses for accountability and for connecting with like-minded fitness lovers.