Build Stronger Bones With Exercise

From the WebMD Archives

Diagnosed with osteoporosis? Take charge of it! One of your best tools to fight back is exercise. It's a powerful way to slow the disease.

Movement helps build up your bones, making it less likely that they'll break. It also improves your balance and flexibility, which can keep you from falling down.

Weight-Bearing Exercise

It's the best way to keep your bones strong. What counts as weight-bearing? Any activity you do on your feet that makes you work against gravity. For instance, you can:

  • Walk
  • Dance
  • Hike
  • Climb stairs
  • Play tennis
  • Jog

Start slowlyat first, with low-impact exercise like walking. You can move up to jogging or jumping rope when you and your doctor feel you're ready.

Aim for 150 minutes of weight-bearing exercise each week. Try 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Or do 50 minutes, 3 days a week. Pick the schedule that works best for you.

Strength-Training Exercise

When you push against a wall, lift a weight, or pull on a stretchy band, you're doing a kind of exercise called strength training. Not only does it make your muscles stronger, it promotes bone growth, too. And that's super important if you've got osteoporosis. 

Some examples of strength-training exercises:

  • Free weights
  • Weight machines
  • Floor exercises like push-ups
  • Resistance bands

At first, use a light weight, and do an exercise move 10 times, or “repetitions.” That equals one “set.” When you can do that with ease, move up to two sets.

Try heavier weights as you get stronger. Some experts say to help your bones grow, fewer repetitions with heavier weights is better than more reps with lighter weights.

Do strength training two to three times a week. Try not to work the same muscle group 2 days in a row.

Wise Moves

Your workout should include exercises that improve your balance, posture, and flexibility, says Petros Efthimiou, MD, associate chief of rheumatology at New York Methodist Hospital. Those can help you avoid getting a fracture. 

And don't forget to stand up straight. Rheumatologist Nathan Wei, MD, says good posture prevents rounded shoulders and spinal fractures.


Choose exercises that focus on your lower abs and back muscles, which help support your spine.

Some simple ones that can help your posture and balance:

  • Stand on one leg. Do it for 10 seconds, then switch sides.
  • Walk forward in a line, heel touching toe. Then try walking backward in a line, also heel to toe.

Try these exercises to improve your flexibility:

Stretches . Stand in the corner of a room with your arms extended to the walls at shoulder level. Step one foot forward, knee bent. Lean onto your front leg and bring your head and chest to the corner. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

Hip abductor strengtheners. Stand straight. Hold onto the back of a chair with your left hand. Place your right hand on your hip. Raise your right leg straight out to the side, with your toes pointed forward. Lower your leg. Do that 10 times. Change sides and repeat 10 times.

Toe and heel raises . Stand up straight and hold onto the back of a chair. Rise up on your toes, then go back onto your heels. As you lift onto your toes, imagine you're moving your head up to the ceiling. Repeat 10 times.

Activities like yoga, Pilates, and tai chi are also good for flexibility and balance. Pilates also builds strength. Do it regularly to lower the chances you'll fall and break a bone.

Be careful not to force your body into harmful poses. Don't do movements that involve bending, twisting, or forward rotation.

Work with an experienced personal trainer or a physical therapist. He can tweak the moves so they're safe for you.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on May 21, 2015



Petros Efthimiou, MD, associate chief of rheumatology, New York Methodist Hospital.

Carol Michaels, MBA, ACE, ACSM, certified personal trainer; founder, Recovery Fitness.

Ryan Greschuk, DC, chiropractor.

Nathan Wei, MD, rheumatologist.

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: "Exercise and Bone and Joint Conditions," "Bone Health Basics."

American College of Rheumatology: "Osteoporosis."

Cleveland Clinic: "The Best Workouts for Osteoporosis."

NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center: "Once Is Enough: A Guide to Preventing Future Fractures."

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