Exercise for Strong Bones

There are two types of exercises that are important for building and maintaining bone density:  weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises.

Weight-bearing Exercises

These exercises include activities that make you move against gravity while staying upright. Weight-bearing exercises can be high-impact or low-impact.

High-impact weight-bearing exercises help build bones and keep them strong. If you have broken a bone due to osteoporosis or are at risk of breaking a bone, you may need to avoid high-impact exercises. If you’re not sure, you should check with your healthcare provider.

Examples of high-impact weight-bearing exercises are:

  • Dancing
  • Doing high-impact aerobics
  • Hiking
  • Jogging/running
  • Jumping Rope
  • Stair climbing
  • Tennis

Low-impact weight-bearing exercises can also help keep bones strong and are a safe alternative if you cannot do high-impact exercises. Examples of low-impact weight-bearing exercises are:

  • Using elliptical training machines
  • Doing low-impact aerobics
  • Using stair-step machines
  • Fast walking on a treadmill or outside

Muscle-Strengthening Exercises

These exercises include activities where you move your body, a weight or some other resistance against gravity. They are also known as resistance exercises and include:

  • Lifting weights
  • Using elastic exercise bands
  • Using weight machines
  • Lifting your own body weight
  • Functional movements, such as standing and rising up on your toes

Yoga and Pilates can also improve strength, balance and flexibility. However, certain positions may not be safe for people with osteoporosis or those at increased risk of broken bones. For example, exercises that have you bend forward may increase the chance of breaking a bone in the spine. A physical therapist should be able to help you learn which exercises are safe and appropriate for you.

Non-Impact Exercises

Non-impact exercises can help you to improve balance, posture and how well you move in everyday activities. These exercises can also help to increase muscle strength and decrease the risk of falls and broken bones. Some of these exercises include:

  • Balance exercises that strengthen your legs and test your balance, such as Tai Chi, can decrease your risk of falls.
  • Posture exercises that improve your posture and reduce rounded or “sloping” shoulders can help you decrease the chance of breaking a bone, especially in the spine.
  • Functional exercises that improve how well you move can help you with everyday activities and decrease your chance of falling and breaking a bone. For example, if you have trouble getting up from a chair or climbing stairs, you should do these activities as exercises.

A physical therapist can teach you balance, posture and functional exercises.

Starting a New Exercise Program

Need some exercise ideas? Check out these sample exercises that promote good posture, strength, movement, flexibility and balance. Be sure to do them along with your weight-bearing exercises.

If you haven’t exercised regularly for a while, check with your healthcare provider before beginning a new exercise program—particularly if you have health problems such as heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure. If you’re at high risk of breaking a bone, you should work with a physical therapist to develop a safe exercise program.

Once you have your healthcare provider’s approval, start slowly. If you’ve already broken bones in the spine because of osteoporosis, be very careful to avoid activities that require reaching down, bending forward, rapid twisting motions, heavy lifting and those that increase your chance of a fall.

As you get started, your muscles may feel sore for a day or two after you exercise. If soreness lasts longer, you may be working too hard and need to ease up. Exercises should be done in a pain-free range of motion.

How Much Exercise Do You Need?

Weight-bearing exercises

30 minutes on most days of the week. Do a 30-minute session or multiple sessions spread out throughout the day. The benefits to your bones are the same.

Muscle-strengthening exercises

Two to three days per week. If you don’t have much time for strengthening/resistance training, do small amounts at a time. You can do just one body part each day. For example do arms one day, legs the next and trunk the next. You can also spread these exercises out during your normal day.

Balance, posture and functional exercises

Every day or as often as needed. You may want to focus on one area more than the others. If you have fallen or lose your balance, spend time doing balance exercises. If you are getting rounded shoulders, work more on posture exercises. If you have trouble climbing stairs or getting up from the couch, do more functional exercises. You can also perform these exercises at one time or spread them during your day. Work with a phyiscal therapist to learn the right exercises for you.

Related

Keeping Your Balance

Balance is very important for people with osteoporosis. Your eyes, ears, muscles and joints all play an important role in maintaining your balance and preventing broken bones. Medical conditions and medicines can also affect balance and your risk of falling.

Medicines that May Cause Bone Loss

Some medicines can be harmful to your bones, even if you need to take them for another condition. Talk with your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of any medicines you take and about how they may affect your bones.

Food and Your Bones

The food that you eat can affect your bones. Learning about the foods that are rich in calcium, vitamin D and other nutrients that are important for your bone health and overall health will help you make healthier food choices every day.