The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) strongly endorses weight-bearing and strength training exercises as the most effective exercises for osteoporosis and bone building. Weight-bearing aerobic exercises involve performing aerobic exercises on your feet, with your bones supporting your weight. These exercises, among others, include walking, jogging, and weightlifting.

When you exercise at a young age, it helps you build strong bones and in older age, exercise helps to maintain bone strength and reduce the risk of osteoporosis fractures.

The exercises described here, along with the prescribed diet are essential for osteopenia and osteoporosis to prevent further deterioration of bone density and stop the progression of this disease into more advanced stages.

However, before your start putting your exercise plan for osteoporosis into action, you should get your bone density test done and your overall fitness evaluated especially if you are in advanced years.

To get the most benefit, you should maintain regularity in your exercise program. For general health, most experts recommend that everyone get at least half an hour of moderate to vigorous exercise five days a week.

Swimming and bicycle riding, although good for your heart, are not beneficial for osteoporosis because they’re not weight-bearing and don’t make your bones stronger.

How exercise benefits osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a bone-weakening disorder, which often results in easy fractures, especially of the hip, spine, and wrist that can severely impair your activity. It is a major cause of disability in older people, especially women.

Bone is living tissue, constantly undergoing a process of remodeling or metabolism in which mature bone is constantly being resorbed and replaced with new bone.

Regular exercise helps build more bone making it more dense and strong. The benefits of exercise extend to almost all systems of your body.

The tugging and pushing on the bone that occurs during strength and power training provide stress on bones. This stimulates the extra deposition of calcium and activates bone-forming cells into action. The result is stronger, denser bones.

Effective exercises for osteoporosis to strengthen bones

The following exercises are recommended for people with osteoporosis and to prevent this disease if you harbor risk factors.

Strength training exercises/Resistance exercises

Studies have shown that resistance exercises are the best for osteoporosis. They strengthen muscles and build bone thereby increasing bone density and reducing the risk of fractures.

These exercises include activities where you move your body or some resistance such as weights against gravity.

Strength training or resistance exercises build strong muscles. They are exercises in which your muscles contract against an external resistance.

The external resistance can be dumbbells, elastic exercise bands, free weights, your own body weight, bricks, or any other such object. Yoga and Pilates are also considered muscle-strengthening exercises.

You can do them at home or in a gym. Building strong muscles through weight training helps to keep your balance and coordination; this helps to prevent falls and osteoporosis-related fractures.

According to The National Osteoporosis Foundation, you should do strengthening exercises two to three times per week.

However, it is important to note that you should do these exercises without experiencing pain. If you have osteoporosis, start with light weights first and gradually increase later but stay within your comfort zone.

Examples include walking, dancing, low-impact aerobics, elliptical training machines, and stair climbing. These types of exercises work the bones in your legs, hips, and lower spine to prevent or slow down mineral loss.

Weight-bearing aerobic activities

Weight-bearing exercise, which puts stress on bones is also good for osteoporosis. Running, fast walking, tennis, stair climbing, and aerobics are examples of this form of exercise.

Weight-bearing aerobic activities strengthen the bones of your legs, hips, and spine and slow down the loss of bone density.

In these exercises, you move against gravity while staying upright. They include both high-impact and low-impact activities.

Examples of high-impact weight-bearing exercises for osteoporosis are:

  • Dancing
  • High-impact aerobics such as jumping, leaping or jogging in place
  • Jogging/running
  • Jumping Rope
  • Stair climbing
  • Tennis

Low-impact weight-bearing exercises also strengthen bones and are advised, if you cannot do high-impact exercises. Examples of low-impact weight-bearing exercises for osteoporosis are:

  • Use of elliptical trainer
  • Doing low-impact aerobics such as brisk exercise walking, stationary bicycling, and swimming
  • Using a stair climber machine
  • Fast walking

The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) recommends doing 30 minutes of weight-bearing exercises 5–7 days per week. If you wish, you can obtain the same benefits by breaking up the 30-minute sessions into two smaller ones of 15 minutes every day.

Flexibility exercises

Flexibility exercises, also called stretching exercises help to keep your muscles supple and joints mobile. You should hold each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds and do stretching exercises for at least five to 10 minutes after every workout every day.

Flexibility workouts keep your joints flexible and this helps prevent injury. Regular stretches, tai chi, and yoga are some examples of flexibility exercises for osteoporosis.

Stability and balance exercises

Stability and balance exercises improve your ability to stay upright, improve your balance and help prevent falls. You should perform balance exercises at least twice a week.

Stability and balance exercises help your muscles work in coordination, which makes your body more stable, improves your balance and you are less likely to fall.

Preventing these small accidents like falling is especially important for people with osteoporosis because they are very vulnerable to fractures even with mild trauma.

Simple exercises such as standing on one leg for one minute three times a day can help improve hip bone mineral density. Other examples of stability exercises include movement-based exercises such as tai chi and yoga, which can improve your stability and balance.

Exercises to avoid in osteoporosis

Talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise program. The exercises described below though otherwise recommended, are bad for people suffering from osteoporosis.

If you have osteoporosis, osteopenia, or low bone density, don’t do the following types of exercises because they increase the risk of fractures:

  • Avoid high-impact activities such as jumping, running, or jogging. They can lead to fractures in the weakened bones of the osteoporosis patient.
  • However, in spite of having osteoporosis, if you are overall fit and strong, you may engage in somewhat higher-impact exercise.
  • Avoid jerky and rapid movements such as jumping rope and jumping jacks.
  • Avoid bending and twisting.
  • Avoid the following exercises because they can increase your risk of compression fractures in your spine if you have osteoporosis.
    • Exercises in which you bend forward at the waist to touch your toes
    • Bending forward and twisting your waist
    • Doing sit-ups
  • You should also avoid activities that require you to bend or twist forcefully at the waist. Such activities include:
    • Golf. The twist at the waist, when you swing a club or racket, can put extra pressure on your spine, which can cause a fracture.
    • Tennis. Though tennis increases your muscle mass and bone density, It is contraindicated in people with osteoporosis due to the low bone density in such people. The stretching and twisting of the spine or rotating of the trunk, which happens in tennis can cause a vertebral fracture of the spine.
    • Bowling. The sudden bending and twisting at the waist and subsequently of the spinal column places an unusual force on the joints and discs of the vertebral column, which can result in fractures of the spine.
  • Some yoga poses. In cases of advanced osteoporosis, some yoga poses that involve the twisting and bending of the trunk may be inadvisable.
  • Some other exercises to avoid if you suffer from weak bones include:
    • Crunches
    • Chest Press
    • Knee Extensions
    • Toe Touch with a Twist (Rotation)
    • Hamstring Stretches
    • Back Stretches
    • Aerobic exercises that involve flexion