Osteoporosis and Exercise

“Exercise plays an important role in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, as well as in maintaining daily activities and mobility as we age.”

 Dr. Angela M. Cheung
Director, Osteoporosis Program, UHN; co-author, Osteoporosis Exercise Guide

Osteoporosis Exercise Guide

Even if you already have osteoporosis, exercise is one of the most effective ways to reduce your risk of the disease and build bone and muscle strength. Exercise promotes the formation and maintenance of strong bones, as well as the prevention of falls and fractures and the rapid recovery from osteoporotic fractures.

Please refer to UHN’s Osteoporosis Exercise Guide for a detailed guide on proper osteoporosis exercises. This is a one-of-a-kind book written specifically for people looking to prevent and treat osteoporosis.

Benefits of exercise

Bones, like muscles, will deteriorate and weaken if they are not used. Physical activity gives our bones the “stress” they need to grow stronger. Weight-bearing activities, such as walking or climbing stairs, force bones to bear more weight, while weight lifting exercises subject bones to a greater load than they are accustomed to. Both types of exercise can help to maintain and even improve bone strength.


International Osteoporosis Foundation – 2005 Invest in Your Bones Report ‘Move it or Lose it.’ (Click on the image to view full size)

Aside from weight-bearing activities and weight lifting, certain exercises can help you improve your posture and muscle strength, lowering your chances of falling and breaking a bone. Tai Chi, for example, can help you build stronger muscles and improve your balance.

Exercise can also help relieve osteoporosis-related pain, such as chronic pain in people who have had vertebral fractures and have a curved spine (kyphosis). Your spine can be made more upright by targeting and strengthening the back muscles. Such exercises may also help to prevent new fractures.

Take precautions when exercising

Exercise is important for osteoporosis patients, but exercising incorrectly can be more dangerous than not exercising at all! Dr. Cheung warns in the Osteoporosis Exercise Guide that “some exercises and activities can harm weakened bones and must be avoided by people with osteoporosis.” It is critical that you select exercises that are good for both you and your bones.”

Before beginning an exercise programme, consult with your doctor. Before beginning any exercise programme, consult your doctor if you have a heart condition, chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, high blood pressure, or a bone or joint condition.

More Resources:

Osteoporosis Exercise Guide

Precautions for Osteoporosis Exercises

Exercise videos for Osteoporosis and Bone Strength

Osteoporosis Canada Bone Fit program