Weight bearing exercise may benefit people with osteoporosis by helping to limit bone density loss.

Depending on the severity of their condition, some people may need to avoid high impact types of weight bearing exercise such as basketball and running.

Instead, they can opt for moderate or low intensity options such as skipping, hopping, marching, or gentle heel drops.

Read on to find out how much and how intensely a person with osteoporosis should exercise.

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Weight bearing exercises involve moving the body’s weight against gravity with the legs and feet supporting the body’s weight.

Exercises of this type help build and strengthen the bones and can be high impact, moderate impact, or low impact.

Some examples of high impact weight bearing exercise are:

  • basketball
  • volleyball
  • track events
  • star jumps
  • tuck jumps
  • high level jumps

Some examples of moderate impact weight bearing exercise are:

  • Highland dancing
  • jogging or running
  • team or racket sports
  • skipping or hopping

Some examples of low impact weight bearing exercise are:

  • walking or marching
  • stair climbing
  • gentle heel drops
  • stamping

Weight bearing exercise strengthens the muscles, ligaments, and joints. Along with resistance training, it is important for improving bone density and preventing osteoporosis.

The authors of a 2018 review state that weight bearing aerobic exercise and strength and resistance exercises are the most appropriate types of exercise for increasing bone density in people with osteoporosis.

They also note that aerobic training, especially types involving high intensity and speed, may help reduce bone density loss.

For beginners

A person can try sit-to-stands as follows:

  1. Sit in a chair.
  2. Slowly stand up and sit down again.
  3. Use the hands for support, if needed.
  4. Repeat 8–10 times.

To try stepups, a person can:

  1. Stand in front of the bottom step of a flight of stairs.
  2. Step up and back down again, holding on to a rail or the wall, if needed.
  3. Repeat, leading with the same leg, 8–10 times.
  4. Repeat on the other leg.

For ankles

A person can perform the following steps for heel lifts:

  1. Hold on to a wall or firm surface for support, if needed.
  2. Rise up onto tiptoes and hold for a few seconds.
  3. Slowly lower the heels back down.
  4. Lift the toes with slightly bent knees, keeping the heels on the floor.
  5. Hold for a few seconds.
  6. Slowly lower the toes.
  7. Maintain an upright position.
  8. Repeat 8–10 times.

For hips

A person can perform the following steps for leg lifts:

  1. Stand while holding on to something for support, such as a table.
  2. Slowly lift one leg out to the side.
  3. Avoid tilting the body or turning the foot out.
  4. Hold for a few seconds.
  5. Slowly lower the leg.
  6. Repeat 8–10 times on each leg.

For the back

A person can perform the following steps for shoulder squeezes:

  1. Sit on the edge of a chair with their hands by their sides.
  2. Gently turn the thumbs out and reach the arms backward.
  3. Squeeze the shoulder blades together and push the fingertips toward the floor.
  4. Hold for 5 seconds.
  5. Repeat 8–10 times.

For arms

A person can perform the following steps for wall pushups:

  1. Stand facing the wall.
  2. Place the hands on the wall at shoulder height, about shoulder-width apart.
  3. Keep the back and hips in a straight line. Keep the feet flat on the floor.
  4. Bend the elbows and lean the body toward the wall.
  5. Hold for a few seconds.
  6. Push the body back away from the wall.
  7. Repeat 8–10 times.

If a person has a bone break or fracture due to osteoporosis, their doctor may advise them to avoid high impact weight bearing exercises and stick to lower impact alternatives.

This may also be the case for people at risk of osteoporotic fractures.

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases recommends that older adults get 150 minutes of exercise each week, including balance training, aerobic exercise, and strength training.

Those who cannot do 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity physical activity because of their health should aim to be as physically active as possible.

People with osteoporosis should discuss any new exercise program with a doctor before they start.

According to the Royal Osteoporosis Society, most people with osteoporosis should aim for around 50 moderate impacts on most days. This also applies to people who do not have osteoporosis.

People who have spinal fractures or cannot do moderate exercise can aim for 20 minutes of lower impact exercises on most days.

If a person is not physically strong enough or cannot exercise regularly, they can aim to avoid sitting for a long time by standing up for a few minutes every hour.

Weight bearing exercise involves moving the body against gravity while staying upright.

It is important to do weight bearing exercise to maintain bone density and prevent osteoporosis.

People with osteoporosis may need to avoid higher impact types of weight bearing exercise. A person should speak with a healthcare professional to determine which exercise types are appropriate for their unique situation.