Exercise and Osteoporosis: Use it or Lose it!

By: Red Hot Mamas

Published: May 26, 2010

The following article is brought to you by our March sponsor, Reclast.

Bone health follows the old adage "Use it or lose it." The more you “work” your bones, the stronger and denser they become. Working your bones involves doing activities that make you move against gravity, such as walking, running, dancing, and playing tennis. A sedentary lifestyle has the opposite effect, causing bones to lose calcium and grow weaker.1 If you are interested in learning more about exercises that benefit your bones, you can visit www.strongtothebone.com.

Three types of activities are often recommended for people with osteoporosis: strength training exercises, weight-bearing aerobic activities and flexibility exercises.2 Remember to speak with your doctor before starting any exercise program for osteoporosis:

  • Weight-bearing aerobic activities: Involves doing aerobic exercise on your feet, with your bones supporting your weight. Examples include walking, dancing, low-impact aerobics and gardening.2
    • Build up your endurance gradually, starting out with as little as 5 minutes of endurance activities at a time, if you need to.3
    • Starting out at a lower level of effort and working your way up gradually is very important if you have been inactive for a long time.3
    • Biking and swimming are not weight-bearing exercises.1 If you enjoy these activities, keep it up…just add some other exercises that will work out your bones too.
    • Your goal is to build up to a minimum of 30 minutes of endurance exercise on most or all days of the week. More often is better, and every day is best.3
  • Strength training: Lifting weights or doing resistance exercises is another great way to work your bones. Resistance exercises include certain muscle strengthening exercises, as well as any exercises which use elastic fitness bands or weight machines.2
    • For best results, do strength exercises at least twice a week. To make it more challenging, gradually add weight or repetitions.3
  • Flexibility exercises: These exercises help increase the mobility of your joints – being able to bend, extend and rotate your joints helps you prevent muscle injury. Increased flexibility can also help improve your posture.2

If you have osteoporosis, don’t do the following types of exercises:

  • High-impact exercises, such as jumping, running or jogging. These activities put added stress on your spine and lower body, which can lead to bone fractures. Avoid jerky, rapid movements in general. Try to move in a slow and controlled manner.2
  • Exercises in which you bend forward and twist your waist, such as touching your toes, doing sit-ups or using a rowing machine. These movements also put added stress on your spine. 2

A few pointers…

  • Walking is a great way to start any exercise program. If you’re not physically fit, don’t worry, start slow:1
    • Warm up for five minutes before activity
    • Increase your workout gradually from 5 to 20 minutes
    • Aim to work up to at least 30 minutes a day, even if you can’t do all 30 minutes at the same time (for example, three 10-minute segments)

If you have a history of falls, are at risk for osteoporosis, or already have it, talk to your doctor about your exercise plan.1

Stay tuned for our next issue to learn about the negative effect alcohol and tobacco can have on your bones. In the meantime, visit www.strongtothebone.com to take a short osteoporosis risk assessment and to learn about local osteoporosis education events in your area.


1National Osteoporosis Foundation. Bone Tool Kit. 2007.

2Mayo Clinic. Exercising with osteoporosis: Stay active the safe way. September 2006.

3National Institute on Aging: Strength Exercises: A Guide. September 2007.