Scheme challenge girlguiding members to ‘boost their bones’

Heather Dunlop, paediatric dietitian; Leesa Smyth, senior health promotion officer from the Northern Health and Social Care Trust pictured with Girlguiding North Antrim members Rebekah Lennon and Katie Smyth.  INCT 18-730-CON

Heather Dunlop, paediatric dietitian; Leesa Smyth, senior health promotion officer from the Northern Health and Social Care Trust pictured with Girlguiding North Antrim members Rebekah Lennon and Katie Smyth. INCT 18-730-CON

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The Northern Health and Social Care Trust has produced an innovative new resource called ‘Boost Your Bones’ in partnership with Girlguiding Ulster.

Girls and young women aged 4 - 25 across the Northern Trust area have been taking part in the initiative, which is aimed at promoting bone health.

Osteoporosis is a condition where the bones become thin and weak and break easily. According to the National Osteoporosis Society, 72,000 people in Northern Ireland have osteoporosis.

Raising awareness of the importance of developing and maintaining strong, healthy bones amongst our child and adult populations and ‘banking’ plenty of bone in the early years puts the skeleton in a better position to withstand the bone loss that occurs with advancing age.

The ‘Boosting your Bones’ challenge covers healthy eating, weight bearing exercise routines and the importance of getting enough sunlight for bone development.

There is a range of activities in which the Guides can become involved including storytelling, craft, games, dance routines and take home activities involving parents.

Sixteen year old Rebekah Lennon is a member of the Senior Section. She took part in the ‘Boost Your Bones’ challenge and feels it has taught her how important it is to ensure good bone health while young.

“Before I completed the challenge I knew very little about bone health and how important it was at my age to build my bone strength,” said Rebekah.

“The Boost Your Bones challenge taught me that calcium helps to build strong bones and that I should eat a healthy balanced diet which includes foods that are rich in calcium such as cheese, yogurts, fortified cereal and milk. I was surprised to learn that even sardines are a good source of calcium and that high impact exercises such as running, walking, tennis and dancing are good for building healthy bones.”

Leesa Houston, senior health promotion officer and Heather Dunlop, paediatric dietitian from the Northern Health and Social Care Trust worked with Girlguiding North Antrim to produce the resource.

Leesa explained: “Our bones are very much alive, growing and changing all the time. Although we may reach our full height by our late teens, our bones are still growing in strength and density up until our twenties.

“Producing this resource with Girlguiding North Antrim was important and has given us a valuable in-reach to girls across the Northern Trust area, allowing us to promote the importance of bone health.

“Children and young adults can ‘bank’ their bone strength up to their mid-to late twenties. Calcium gives strength and density to our bones and teeth. If we don’t build strong bones our bones can become fragile when we are older causing osteoporosis.”

By participating in the ‘Boost Your Bones’ challenge, local Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and Senior Section members will earn a badge for completing tasks specifically aimed at promoting bone health.