Exercise for Osteoporosis
Regular exercise has a very important role in maintaining healthy bones and preventing osteoporosis. Exercise can:
- Maintain and improve bone density – builds bone strength.
- Increase muscle strength – supports the joints.
- Improve coordination and balance – helps to prevent falls.
- Improve lung and heart fitness – reduces the risk of heart disease.
Exercise should be regular and ongoing as the benefits for bone health are lost when you stop exercising.
If you DO have osteoporosis
People diagnosed with osteoporosis and/or recovering from a fracture must consult their doctor or physiotherapist about starting an individual exercise program. Because of the higher risk of fracture, exercising at a level high enough to produce stress on the bones is not recommended. The aim is to maintain bone strength and reduce the risk of falls and fractures by improving posture, balance and muscle strength.
Appropriate exercises include tai chi, gentle weights for muscle strength, walking and water-based exercises, such as hydrotherapy.
Exercising in water can be particularly useful if you have fractures in your spine as the buoyancy of the water decreases the stress on joints and the warm water temperature (33° -35° Celsius) reduces muscle spasms, tension and pain.
If you DON'T have osteoporosis
There are two main types of exercise that are beneficial to bone health:
- Weight bearing exercise: This means any exercise that is done while you are on your feet with forces from your body weight being exerted through the bones. Examples include jogging, jumping, walking (particularly up hills and stairs), tennis, dancing, aerobics and golf.
- Strength training (resistance exercises): Using your muscles against resistance can strengthen the muscles as well as the bones. Resistance can take the form of hand weights, resistance bands, machine weights at the gym or your own body weight. Before you start, it is important to talk to a doctor or physiotherapist about the best type of strength training for you.
For more information about exercise for osteoporosis call our free Helpline on 1800 011 041 and speak to one of our health educators or download a free booklet on Exercise and Fracture Prevention.