Weight bearing and strength training exercises can help build strong bones and benefit people with osteoporosis. Suitable exercises include walking, jogging, and weightlifting.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) says that weight bearing and strength training exercises are the most effective for bone building.
Resistance exercises for osteoporosis can build bone density. This can reduce the risk of fractures and breaks. Some exercises can also improve muscle strength and balance, lowering a person’s chance of falling.
People with osteoporosis may want to focus on resistance exercises that they can safely perform. They should avoid those that repetitively bend or flex the spine.
Read on to learn about exercises for people with osteoporosis, which exercises to avoid, and how physical activity helps prevent a loss of bone density.
People with osteoporosis may find certain exercises beneficial. However, they should only perform exercises that they can do safely. Regardless of the type of exercise they choose, it is best to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration over time.
When a person begins an exercise routine, it is normal for them to feel sore the next day. However, soreness and pain should not feel severe or last for longer than 48 hours. If this happens, it is an indication to ease up and progress at a slower rate.
A person should contact a doctor or physical therapist before starting a new exercise routine, especially if they have preexisting injuries or underlying health conditions.
Osteoporosis exercises include the following.
Weight bearing exercises
Weight bearing exercises are those that force a person to move against gravity while staying upright. These place stress on the bones, which can maintain or improve bone density.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) recommends doing 30 minutes of weight bearing cardio exercise on 5–7 days per week. People will get the same benefit if they wish to break up the 30-minute sessions into smaller ones, such as three 10-minute sessions per day.
There are two types of weight bearing exercises: high and low impact.
High impact weight bearing exercises include:
- doing high impact aerobics
- playing tennis
- stair climbing
- jumping rope
If a person cannot do high impact weight bearing exercises, low impact ones are an alternative. These include:
- doing low impact aerobics
- fast walking
- using elliptical training machines
- using stair-step machines
Muscle strengthening exercises
Muscle strengthening exercises involve working against gravity by using one’s body weight, an additional weight, or a resistance band.
The NOF advises doing strengthening exercises two to three times per week.
However, people should do these exercises only within a pain-free range of motion. Individuals with osteoporosis should start with light weights and gradually increase the difficulty.
Some examples of strengthening exercises include:
- lifting weights
- using weight machines
- doing body weight exercises, such as leg lifts or pushups
- using elastic exercise bands
- doing functional exercises, such as rising up on the toes in a standing position
Non-weight-bearing exercises move body parts without having to overcome gravity. Examples include:
- doing chair exercises
Doing postural exercises reduces rounded shoulders, improving a person’s posture. These movements strengthen and stretch the muscles in the back and chest, lowering the risk of spinal fractures.
These exercises can
- full body stretches
- abdominal strengthening exercises
- head and neck stretches
Experts advise people with osteoporosis to avoid activities that twist, flex, or bend the spine. The repetitive bending and flexing of the spine is harmful in people with spinal osteoporosis, and, over time, it can lead to spinal fractures.
People should avoid the following exercises:
- toe touches
- yoga poses that round the spine
- spinal twists
Additionally, people with osteoporosis should avoid exercises that carry a high risk of falls, such as skiing or ice skating.
Bone is living tissue, so it changes in response to force.
According to the AAOS, weight bearing and strength training are the best types of exercise for building bone tissue because they put stress on the bones.
While non-weight-bearing exercises do not build bone density, they are beneficial for osteoporosis in other ways. For example, they strengthen muscles and the cardiovascular system.
Additionally, exercising, in general, improves balance, strength, and coordination. This can prevent falls and fractures.
Exercise programs are not one-size-fits-all. People with certain medical conditions or risk factors may need to make modifications.
Fractures and osteoporosis history
The aforementioned precautions for people with osteoporosis are particularly important if they have had fractures. These measures include avoiding activities that bend the spine and high impact exercises.
The National Institutes for Health (NIH) recommend that individuals with the following conditions contact a doctor before starting a new exercise routine:
- heart conditions
- high blood pressure
The NIH advises that people who are 40 years old and above should contact a doctor before starting an exercise program. Although this may not be necessary for all individuals, it is particularly important for those with certain health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease.
Additionally, once a person becomes an older adult, they are at higher risk of falling. Doing activities that strengthen the legs, help with balance, and improve posture can reduce the chance of falls.
A person who is recovering from a major bone break, such as a hip fracture or spinal cord injury, may need a specialized exercise routine. This could involve a rehabilitation program under the supervision of a physical therapist.
Exercises for osteoporosis include weight bearing activities, such as fast walking, and muscle strengthening exercises, such as lifting weights. Both kinds increase bone density.
Although non-weight-bearing exercises do not build bone strength, they strengthen muscles and the cardiovascular system.
People who are aged 40 years and older or who have certain medical conditions should contact a doctor before starting a workout routine.