How to keep your ‘frame’ strong

Learn about your ‘frame’, to keep your joints and bones strong and avoid muscle loss.

How to keep your ‘frame’ strong

The musculoskeletal system allows our bodies to move. It is made up of the muscles (muscular) and bones (skeletal). This vital collection of muscles, cartilage, tendons, bones, ligaments and joints provides support, stability and determines our overall shape.

Sometimes things go wrong with our musculoskeletal system or ‘frame’. While osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and the loss of muscle mass are associated with different parts of your frame, they all affect the strength of your musculoskeletal system.


A loss of muscle mass is common after prolonged illness, injury or inactivity. This can have a severe outcome such as physical disability, loss of independence and a poor quality of life. Age-related muscle-mass loss is most commonly associated with a lack of physical activity and poor nutrition.


Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects the whole joint – including the bones, cartilages, ligaments and muscles – and can include swelling of the tissue around the joint, as well as deterioration of the ligaments in the joint. Research shows that the risk of developing osteoarthritis increases if you have a family history of the condition or if you’re overweight.


Osteoporosis is a loss of bone strength, making bones more fragile and prone to fracture. There are a range of factors that contribute to the loss of bone strength, including some types of medicines and particular illnesses. However, the hormonal changes that come with menopause can also affect the strength and density of womens’ bones. A family history of osteoporosis can also contribute to your likelihood of weak bones as you age.

Keeping your frame strong

What can you do to help keep your frame healthy and strong? Jean Hailes’ endocrinologist Dr Sonia Davison says, “Things that can contribute to bone density loss may include lack of weight-bearing exercise, low vitamin D, low calcium intake, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, caffeine excess and being underweight.”

The good thing is that there are a number of things you can do to help keep your frame strong as you age, such as choosing the right foods. The three main nutrients that contribute to strong bones and muscles are calcium, vitamin D and protein. Yoghurt, almonds and tinned sardines are all excellent sources of calcium. Small amounts of vitamin D are found in foods such as some mushrooms, fish and egg yolks. Including sources of protein – such as tuna, chicken or legumes – is essential, as protein is the building block of healthy bones and strong muscles.

Nutrition can also help to alleviate some of the symptoms of arthritis. When it comes to your joints, “A diet rich in fatty fish, dark leafy greens, whole grains and whole soy (such as tofu and tempeh) may help to relieve the inflammation that is associated with arthritis”, says Jean Hailes’ naturopath Jess Gleeson.

Leading an active lifestyle can reduce your likelihood of developing osteoporosis, arthritis or losing muscle mass. Weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, jogging or dancing, is great for strengthening bones and muscles. Just make sure you don’t do anything that might impact any other conditions or injuries. It’s also just as important to do some strength training to build your muscle mass – such as using weights or your own body (e.g. push ups).

Weight-bearing exercises, strength training and stretching, just two to three times a week, can help to keep your frame healthy.

If you are starting a new exercise program, it is a good idea to speak with your doctor before you start. For more information about incorporating strength training into your routine, visit the Living Longer Living Stronger website for exercises specifically for the over 50s.

Published with the permission of Jean Hailes for Women's Health.


    To make a comment, please register or login
    25th Apr 2015
    i have to also say that Pollution is also another reason why some won't exercise and i be one of those. Seems some Groups of builders, are careful enough, and don't worry about those living around the home they maybe renovating.......Or perhaps building on to another building and lumping huge lots of soil around and leaving it there, for the wind to blow every which way. If ones lungs start weezing how are you supposed to breathe!!! to be able to exercise>?>????
    25th Apr 2015
    You could try exercising in the park down the road!
    25th Apr 2015
    Go to the gym!
    7th Jan 2016
    THANKYOU STRUMMER FOR YOUR THOUGHTS BUT I TRIED THAT ONE TOO. BUT THE WIND BEAT ME TOO IT. AND BLEW THAT WAY, THE AIR YOU COULD CUT WITH A KNIFE. AND sorry for shouting, but even my local supermarket, air cons, were loaded with rubbish. As when i went shopping all i could taste was dirt IN my mouth. and after i got home i felt dreadfully sick.....Its still hard to exercise when you have to put up with this rubbish!!
    7th Jan 2016
    Thanks Helenc for your suggestion, but The GYm is close enough that its suffering as bad as the Supermarkets!!!
    tho i'm sure you all be glad to hear, That the place where they had been building, is nearly at an end......Hopefully i may live through it???
    But in the mean time, i grew, two lots of cysts on my neck, went through numerous infections. I've had to go to the doctors at least once a month for a top up of antibiotics, and i have been living off INNEr Health Plus, to help me cope......
    I'll get there!!!!!!!! HOPEfully
    25th Apr 2015
    Training with weights and calisthenics - bodyweight exercises- and proper nutrition, is the best way to keep your frame strong and youthful. When I say weights, I don't mean little pink dumbells. I mean proper lifting: squats, deadlifts, bench press, barbell rows, shoulder press, push ups, chin ups, pull ups, dips and more.
    5th May 2015
    Listen Helenc, when i was younger i did all those things. but know that we don't get proper nutrition from our foods, my spine is collapsing, and doing all of that has done me NO good at all.
    So many foods are Genetically Modified. Most importantly our milks and cheeses, have so much rubbish in them its hard to tell which one has what you need in it. and Hence your body will then suffer eventually as mine is :(
    5th May 2015
    Buby, I don't know your med history, so I can't really comment, anyway, why did you stop? I started training about 5-6 years ago and have not looked back, I enjoy it, love the results and would never give it up, I am 52 and my body and fitness/strength level are better than when I was 25. Once we hit the 30s, loss of muscle begins, this is what makes people's bodies weak and frail, plus, weakening of the bones associated with lack of weight bearing training. I cant' see why you have trouble getting proper nutrition, I eat dairy/eggs and I am fine. We are lucky that we are living in a country where we have access to quality animal protein, veggies, dairy, eggs, fruit, nuts and good oils. My health is excellent, I do not take any prescription meds and my results from routine check ups are fine. Muscle is more valuable than gold, if we don't use it, it will wither away. I have no intention to end up in a nursing home when I am older with people wiping my backside, feeding me mush and talking down to me. Check out the women in these videos, they are the same age as my mum.

    Also, there's an online community on FB of people who are over 40 and lift weights:
    10th May 2015
    Helen i am over 60. While you are young that might be great. I worked in the field of heavy industry, it was like working in a gym!
    But now i'm older, its taken its toll. NO strength training will change my health in any way. I've had lower back surgery that worked out great. I"M still walking:)
    but now my upper spine is collapsing, and i will not have surgery on it as the doctors says this could end up with me being a paraplegic! So that leaves me with no where to enjoy your muscles while you can, cause when you start having spinal problems NO strength training in the world will save it.
    If i over do it, my Muscles Spasm, this is very painful. and yes i still exercise, very mildly. but its nothing exciting like it used to be. NOw i struggle to do my housework, and thats the extent of my exercising. I'm sure NO body wants to end up in a nursing home. Neither do i but i'm sure i will.
    I'm suppose to have a delivery of food everyday to my home, but the rubbish they cook i dislike very much, and so still strive to cook but i do it differently. I cook enough for about three days and freeze if i can. OR i go out to eat. Its become a very different world for me NOW. I don't look forward to the Junk food i will be made to eat, when i have to stop living on my own.The mush will probably KILL me along with their drugs.....:(
    cheers Helen
    10th May 2015
    Work and training ARE not the same, if it was all women would look like olympic gymnasts LOL. If you strength train CORRECTLY, following a program set out by a good coach trainer that takes into account your injuries, you will preserve your muscle mass, mobility. Sometimes, it's a psychological as well, if you believe that you cannot do something you wont be able to. Yes I will continue to enjoy and built my muscles, take care of my health AND continue to prove people wrong - it's one of my greatest pleasures, my mum is 80 with a long list of medical issues, I have put together a basic, simple program for her and has had some improvement. The simple truth is IF YOU DON'T USE MUSCLE, IT WILL ATROPHY AND YOU WILL WEAKEN! This is not my opinion, its a fact! I wish you all the best, I do believe there is hope for you.
    10th May 2015
    Helen I cannot strengthen anything. I said, MY MUscles go INTO spasm YOU cannot train with this happening. And YEs i have done it. And depends on what type of job you do. I was lifting heavy metal discs. 8 hrs a day basically. If this is not strength training i don't know what is. I WAS strong then. But as YOU get into your older years and your back collaspes, NO strength training will keep you going..... Geezzzz for everybody it will be different/ Since when did I have time to Strength TRain. AS i was working, and then too tired by the time i got home. But yes still did work because i had no choice......IF you have too much Muscle you have too much weight on your body Full Stop...... doesn't matter if you did it properly or not. YOU can gain Muscles without proper training trust me i had it..
    BUT YOU KNOW IF YOUr MUSCLES SPASM..... you CAN'T DO SQUAT......OBVIOUSLY YOU ARE NOT AT THAT SPACE IN TIME. i AM:p But i am NOT weak, and i still have some muscle enough to carry me around, and to do what i must do without over doing it. WHICH CAN HAPPEN? I DIDN'T SAY I DON'T HAVE MUSCLE......AND i wouldn't rely on food to give you the nutrients that you need to get you buy either.. Well GOOD LUCK TO YOU.....i'M A LOT PAST THAT
    5th Jan 2016
    I tend to agree with both sides of these comments. I had a bad motor accident and had neck and spinal injuries, my specialist has told me not to have any Chiro done on my neck under any circumstances, if they do something wrong I could end up in a wheel chair for life. However I have always been active and sporty so since my retirement I have been going to the gym, I love it I do weights, strength bearing exercises, a program done for me by my Physiotherapist and the gym trainers. My Dr is surprised that I have so much more movement in my neck and no pain and my back is just great. Everyone is surprised when I say I take no medicines at all, only Fish Oil. I go to the gym 5 mornings a week and Tai Chi once a week and really enjoy it and I am also one who does not want to end up in a nursing home with mushy food so I eat my 7 vegetables a night and 3 pieces of fruit a day plus milk and cheese, I pay extra for these items to get them straight from the farm so they are full of goodness. My gym friend is 85 and I have just turned 74 and am going to keep on doing what I am because I can see the benefits, I am healthier, fitter, happier and have dropped a dress size (now 10) plus you meet some lovely people when working out. Then there is always the coffee afterwards.
    7th Jan 2016
    Thats terrific PNwild, i happy to hear something is good with someone.
    and after your accident, your doing well.
    I was lucky enough to have had a chiro, who just said i can't do anything more for you. do be careful, and yes i do exercise when is possible to keep the muscle strong to a degree, and i'm happy to say i have stopped travelling the buses, and now drive. and now that my spine is not being jerked around anymore, by the stop, starting all the time.
    I do feel so much better.
    All the best to you all for 2016

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