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Our exercise program for osteoporosis helps you get stronger and prevent falls and fractures.
October 31, 2023

In addressing osteoporosis, engaging in regular exercise is a critical component of any strategy to combat further bone deterioration. But what exercises are best for osteoporosis?

Disclaimer: If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. This article contains information from peer-reviewed research, medical societies and governmental agencies; however, this guide is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Osteoporosis is a condition during which the bones become brittle and weak, leading one to easily fracture during normal activities. Approximately 10 million people have osteoporosis in the United States alone, and another 44 million have low bone density, which puts them at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis over time. 

There are controllable and uncontrollable risk factors that make one more prone to developing osteoporosis, but one thing is for sure: one of the best ways to battle the repercussions of osteoporosis is to exercise. Research shows that a combination of three specific types of exercises – weight-bearing exercises, resistance training and balance exercises – make for the most effective bone health exercise regimen for someone looking to stave off bone loss and preserve bone mass (Benedetti, 2018).

Not all activities provide the same advantages for your bones and some exercises may not be suitable for someone diagnosed with osteoporosis (Mayo Clinic, 2021). Selecting safe, appropriate movements can contribute to slowing bone loss, encouraging new bone formation, and enhancing strength, posture, and balance. In this article, we'll walk you through the best exercises for individuals with low bone mass and how they're incorporated into Wellen's personalized exercise program.

What types of exercises are best for osteoporosis?

The best exercise program for someone with osteoporosis is designed to help improve their bone mass, strengthen bones and muscles, and reduce the risk of falls and fractures. Wellen's workout program focuses on all of these aspects by placing significant emphasis on weight-bearing, resistance, balance and posture exercises.

Weight-bearing exercises for osteoporosis

Weight-bearing exercises are essential for stimulating bone growth and increasing bone density. It's important to note that new research suggests certain high-impact exercises such as jumping may be appropriate and beneficial for women with osteoporosis who have not had a compression fracture or multiple low trauma fractures (Brooke-Wavell, 2022; Kistler-Fischbacher, 2021; Manaye, 2023). A thorough physical exam from your doctor or physical therapist will help determine whether high-impact exercises are right for you. 

If you've been diagnosed with osteoporosis and are unsure of which exercises are safe for you, it's best to focus on including low-impact weight-bearing exercise into your workout regimen. Examples of weight-bearing exercises that are safe for people with osteoporosis include walking, squats, and forward step-ups. These movements may be lower impact, but they're still effective at building strong bones and lowering the risk of fractures. If you're not sure which activities fall into each category, we've put together a list:

  • Low-impact exercises that are safe for people with osteoporosis include low-impact aerobics (like walking and using elliptical training machines), tai chi movements like Pet the Tiger (most tai chi exercises are safe), and gentle physical activities like gardening.
  • High-impact weight-bearing exercises and activities include tennis, jogging, running, jumping, and step aerobics. These exercises are not safe for everyone with osteoporosis, especially people who have had compression fractures or multiple low-trauma fractures (Brooke-Wavell, 2022). However, for those who have not experienced these types of fractures and who are physically prepared for high-impact activities, these can have bone-building benefits. We know it can get confusing, so if you are unsure whether these exercises are right for you, check with your doctor or physical therapist.

Resistance exercises for osteoporosis

Resistance training, which you can also think of as muscle-strengthening exercises, is crucial for building and maintaining bone (Kitsuda, 2021). Resistance exercises involve working against a force, such as weights, resistance bands, or your own body weight to increase the challenge on the body. Strength-training exercises like lifting weights or using elastic exercise bands help strengthen muscles, which can support and protect the bones. That's why it's also crucial to maintain muscle strength for your bone health. Examples of resistance exercises that are safe for someone with osteoporosis include: Bicep Curls with Band, Standing Hip Abduction with Band and Standing Scapular Retraction with External Rotation with Resistance.

You can use whichever form of exercise feels best, uses equipment you already have access to, and is safest for you. Free weights, weight machines, and elastic exercise bands can all strengthen bones (while improving muscle strength) and support your overall bone health.

Ask your doctor whether they'd prefer you use a weight machine rather than free weights. These machines not only allow you to use light weights and increase them as you're able but also guide the movement so there's no jerking.

Posture exercises for osteoporosis

Poor posture can put extra stress on the bones and increase the risk of vertebral compression fractures. Wellen's posture exercises for people with osteoporosis focus on strengthening the muscles that support good posture, such as the abdominal muscles (your core) and back extensor muscles, while also ensuring that they are safe and appropriate for someone with weakened bones. Some examples of posture exercises for someone with osteoporosis include: Isometric Thoracic Extension Against Wall, Standing Scapular Retraction and Bridges.

Balance exercises for osteoporosis

Balance exercises are an essential component of any osteoporosis exercise regimen. While it's important to build and maintain bone density, it's equally important to prevent the falls that often result in fractures. These movements improve stability and reduce the risk of falls. Here are some examples of exercises to improve balance that are safe for someone with osteoporosis and are included in Wellen's program: Paint the Floor (with or without support), Standing Alternate Hip Flexion and Tiger Balancing on Front Paws with Support

If you're not feeling challenged by these balance movements but want to continue working to prevent falls, it may be a good time to talk to a physical therapist. A qualified physical therapist can oversee your exercise session, ensuring you're challenging yourself appropriately to develop critical skills in a way that's safe for people with osteoporosis.

Older adults should also avoid combining balance and flexibility exercises. Each of these skills can be worked separately, but movements that involve balance require all your focus or you risk falls. Adding in another skill to focus on diverts your attention from your balance.

How does Wellen help with osteoporosis?

Exercise is one of the most effective ways to build and maintain bone throughout the lifespan. By incorporating weight-bearing, resistance, posture and balance exercises into a regular fitness routine, women with osteoporosis (or those aiming for osteoporosis prevention) can help improve their bone health, prevent further bone loss, increase strength, and reduce the risk of falls and fractures. Wellen's customized exercise program provides a safe and effective fitness program for healthy bones that includes all of these activities and tailors them to your current fitness level.

While Wellen is designed specifically for women with osteoporosis in mind, it is not the only way to build and maintain bone. Staying active with daily weight-bearing activities such as walking, carrying small grocery bags, going up and down stairs and even dancing, is the best compliment to any exercise program. If you're interested in trying Wellen, sign up here for a free trial.

Exercises for osteoporosis FAQs

What is the best exercise for osteoporosis?

The best exercise for people with osteoporosis includes movement using your own weight, balance training, strength training, and posture exercises. Each of these types of movement offers something that supports bone health and helps prevent falls and compression fractures.

Does walking improve bone density?

Walking is an excellent weight-bearing movement for people with osteopenia or osteoporosis who want to support their overall bone health. But walking alone isn't enough to improve bone mineral density. The best approach to osteoporosis exercises includes weight-bearing movements like walking but also resistance, posture, and balance training. For postmenopausal women, a diet that provides plenty of calcium and vitamin D is also required to build bone mineral density.

What exercises should you avoid with osteoporosis?

If you've been diagnosed with low bone mineral density that qualifies as osteoporosis, you should avoid exercises that involve twisting and rounding of the spine because they can cause spine fractures. You should also avoid deep hip stretches. If you have questions about specific movements, ask your doctor before trying them.

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  1. Benedetti MG, Furlini G, Zati A, Letizia Mauro G. The Effectiveness of Physical Exercise on Bone Density in Osteoporotic Patients. Biomed Res Int. 2018 Dec 23;2018:4840531. doi: 10.1155/2018/4840531. PMID: 30671455; PMCID: PMC6323511.
  2. Exercising with osteoporosis: Stay active the safe way. Mayo Clinic. June 5, 2021. Accessed April 17, 2023. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/osteoporosis/in-depth/osteoporosis/art-20044989
  3. Brooke-Wavell K, Skelton DA, Barker KL, et al. Strong, steady and straight: UK consensus statement on physical activity and exercise for osteoporosis [published online ahead of print, 2022 May 16]. Br J Sports Med. 2022;56(15):837-846. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2021-104634
  4. Kistler-Fischbacher M, Weeks BK, Beck BR. The effect of exercise intensity on bone in postmenopausal women (part 1): A systematic review. Bone. 2021;143:115696. doi:10.1016/j.bone.2020.115696
  5. Manaye S, Cheran K, Murthy C, et al. The Role of High-intensity and High-impact Exercises in Improving Bone Health in Postmenopausal Women: A Systematic Review. Cureus. 2023;15(2):e34644. Published 2023 Feb 5. doi:10.7759/cureus.34644
  6. Kitsuda Y, Wada T, Noma H, Osaki M, Hagino H. Impact of high-load resistance training on bone mineral density in osteoporosis and osteopenia: a meta-analysis. J Bone Miner Metab. 2021 Sep;39(5):787-803. doi: 10.1007/s00774-021-01218-1. Epub 2021 Apr 13. PMID: 33851269.

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