Osteoporosis-Friendly Exercises to Strengthen Your Bones

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Living with osteoporosis? Studies have shown a correlation between exercise and increased bone mineral density. Learn how to design an ideal workout routine for yourself, including specific exercises that have been found to help prevent osteoporosis and even reduce its symptoms.


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Why is exercise important for people with osteoporosis?

Even if you already have bone loss, exercise can help you keep your bones strong and build new bone, according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF). Additionally, staying fit can help reduce your risk of falling and breaking a bone. But before you dive into exercise, it’s important to know how to do so safely.


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Design your osteoporosis workout

What might an ideal workout session look like for someone with osteoporosis? Based on recommendations from the IOF, it should focus on your posture, balance, coordination, and hip and trunk stabilization. In one study of women with osteoporosis, the exercise program helped the women to better perform daily tasks, decreased back pain and risk of falling, and provided other health benefits. The program consisted of three parts: a warm-up, the main workout, and relaxation.


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Warm-up

Before you start the main part of your workout, it’s important to warm up. This process should take about 10-15 minutes. You may start with gentle range-of-motion exercises that work your main joints. Then you may transition to walking or light dance steps, which will help raise your heart rate.


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Workout

The main workout focuses on exercises that will strengthen and stretch your body. Additionally, you’ll work on improving your balance and coordination. Don’t push yourself too hard — make sure to take breaks when you need them and always have water handy.


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Relaxation techniques

The cool-down portion of your workout should last about five to 10 minutes. Use this time to try relaxation techniques, like progressive muscle relaxation and meditation.

Next, we’ll take a look at specific exercises you can incorporate into your main workout.


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Balance exercises

People with osteoporosis are much more likely to encounter falls and broken bones, according to the IOF. This is why balance maneuvers are crucial to preventing injuries. Try standing on one leg for an extended period of time (have a chair in front of you to hold on to so you don’t fall). Try walking heel to toe. Tai chi is also a popular exercise for those with osteoporosis. Light yoga is another alternative.


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Weight-bearing exercises: Low-impact activities

Weight-bearing exercises are any activities that make you move against gravity. There are both high-impact and low-impact exercises, and both contribute to bone health, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF). Low-impact exercises can include brisk walking outside, using an elliptical or stair-climbing machine, or taking a low-impact aerobics class.


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Weight-bearing exercises: High-impact activities

High-impact weight-bearing activities may be too hard on your bones if you have a broken bone or are at risk of breaking one due to your osteoporosis, according to the NOF. Before doing any high-impact exercises, it’s important to talk to your doctor to make sure they’re safe for you. High-impact activities can include hiking, jogging, jumping rope, dancing, or stair-climbing.


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Muscle-strengthening exercises

These exercises are any that make you move in resistance to gravity using either your body, a weight, or other equipment, according to the NOF. Try lifting weights, using weight machines, and stretching elastic exercise bands. You may also consider yoga and Pilates, but make sure to speak with a physical therapist to figure out whether there are certain moves you should avoid.


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Exercises to avoid with osteoporosis

However, not all exercise is ideal for people living with osteoporosis, according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation. Avoid sit-ups and excessive trunk bending, which can lead to fractures of your vertebrae. Jumping and high-impact aerobics can also increase your risk of fractures. Additionally, you should avoid twisting movements like swinging a golf club. In your daily activities, try to avoid bending to pick up objects too frequently, as this can also cause damage.


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When in doubt, talk to your doctor

While physical activity is beneficial for people with osteoporosis, it can be dangerous and increase your risk of injury if you aren’t careful. Ask your doctor for recommendations for an appropriate exercise routine if you’re not sure what’s best for you. You may also get a referral to a physical therapist who can teach you appropriate exercises. Remember: Exercise is key, but it’s important that you do it safely.