Exercise can help prevent osteoporosis. If you already have osteoporosis, exercise can help maintain bone strength.


Osteoporosis Exercise Guidelines

  • Check with your physician concerning any restrictions you may have before beginning an exercise program.

  • Avoid any exercise that causes or increases pain.

  • Stop exercising if you feel dizzy or short of breath.

  • Never hold your breath while exercising.

  • Make sure to keep your body in alignment when performing all exercises.

  • Avoid exercises that involve forward bending of your spine (i.e. toe touches, sit-ups). These exercises can increase the incidence of vertebral fractures.

  • Avoid exercises that involve excessive twisting (i.e. windmill toe touches). This puts too much force on your spine.

  • Do resistance exercises. Free weights, exercise machines and resistance bands are examples of this type of exercise. Strive to do one set of eight to ten repetitions of each resistance exercise. For a more challenging program, progress to three sets of eight to ten repetitions.

  • When using weights, rest one to two minutes between sets of exercises.

  • When using weights, start with one-pound weights, then gradually increase the amount of weight. Too much weight can be harmful.

  • Wear shoes with good support and cushioning while exercising. Replace shoes when cushioning begins to wear out.


Increase your exercise – Physical activity throughout life helps develop and maintain strong bones and decrease bone loss. Persons age 35 and older should consult their physician before beginning an exercise program. Your health care provider can make a referral to a physical therapist. Before you exercise, consult a physical therapist about the best types of exercise.

A complete osteoporosis exercise program should include weight-bearing, resistance, postural and balance exercises. It is important to check with your physician or physical therapist before starting any exercise program.

Weight-bearing exercises use the weight of the body to work against gravity and are recommended for all ages. Your bones respond to this force by growing stronger. Walking, jogging, dancing, hiking, stair climbing and aerobic exercises are all examples of weight-bearing exercises. The goal is to work up to 45 minutes or more per session. Perform these exercises at least 3 to 5 times per week. (Bike riding and swimming, although good exercises, are not weight bearing exercises).

Resistance exercises generate muscle tension on the bones and are recommended for everyone after the age of 14. Resistance exercise strengthens the muscles and stimulates the bones to grow stronger. Free weights, exercise machines and resistance bands are examples of this type of exercise. Start exercising without weights. Begin with 1 set of 8 to 10 repetitions of each exercise increasing gradually to 3 sets. When that becomes easy, add 1 lb.of weight at a time. These exercises should be done 2 to 3 times a week but not on consecutive days.

Stick ‘Em Up
Sit or stand, bringing arms into a “W” position without hunching shoulders. If sitting, place feet on the floor with knees apart. If standing, tighten lower abdominal muscles and keep knees soft (not locked). Bring arms backward to a comfortable position and pinch shoulder blades together. Slowly return to the starting position. Work up to 10 repetitions. When you can do this 10 times without difficulty, add 1-lb. weights to each hand or wrist. Increase weight gradually.

Postural exercises decrease harmful stress on the back. By performing these exercises, you can reduce your risk of spinal fractures and the rounded shoulders commonly seen with osteoporosis. These exercises should be performed throughout the day to reinforce good posture.

Shoulder Stretch
Sit at the edge of a chair. Draw shoulders back to a comfortable position pulling shoulder blades together. At the same time, visualize stretching and lengthening your spine. Hold for 3 seconds. Perform 3 -5 repetitions.

Balance exercises help maintain equilibrium and reduce the risk of falling. These exercises should be performed daily.

Balancing on One Leg
Stand in a comfortable, balanced position near a counter or sturdy chair for support. Keep knees soft (not locked) and toes facing forward. Tighten lower abdominal muscles and lift left knee to a comfortable position. Hold 5 to 10 seconds. Maintain tightness of abdominal muscles. Alternate legs and perform 5-10 repetitions with each leg.

“Illustrated by Cecily Byk; from Osteoporosis, An Exercise Guide by Margie Bissinger, MS, PT.”

If you have osteoporosis, check with your doctor before doing high impact activities like jogging or high-impact aerobics. These exercises jar the spine and might increase the risk of spinal fractures.

Exercise and the Role of the Physical Therapist
A physical therapist can design an exercise program that is safe and appropriate for both prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. Physical therapists are trained to teach proper ways to perform daily activities to reduce fracture risk. Talk to your physician about referral to a physical therapist.

Many individuals with osteoporosis will have postural changes, muscle, and soft tissue tightness that requires the hands-on treatment of a physical therapist.


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