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 GuideOne of the surest ways to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and to build bone and muscle strength even if you already have osteoporosis, is exercise. Exercise helps to build and maintain strong bones, reduce risk of falls and fractures, as well as speed recovery from an osteoporotic fracture.

For a detailed guide on proper exercises for osteoporosis, please refer to UHN’s Osteoporosis Exercise Guide, a unique book written specifically for people looking to prevent and treat osteoporosis.

Benefits of exercise

Just like muscles, bones will become weak and deteriorate if they are not used. Physical activity provides our bones with the “stress” they need to grow stronger. Weight-bearing activities like walking or climbing stairs force bones to bear more weight, and weight lifting exercises provide bones with a greater load than what they normally experience. Both types of exercise can help in maintaining and even increasing bone strength.

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

Apart from weight-bearing activities and weight lifting, certain exercises can help you to improve your posture and strengthen your muscles so you are less likely to fall and break a bone. Tai Chi, for instance, helps to develop stronger muscles and improve balance.

Exercise can also help in relieving pain related to osteoporosis, including chronic pain in people who have had vertebral fractures and have a curved spine (kyphosis). By targeting and strengthening the back muscles, your spine can become more upright. New fractures may also be prevented by such exercises.

Take precautions when exercising

It is important for osteoporosis patients to exercise, but exercising incorrectly can be more harmful than not exercising at all! In the Osteoporosis Exercise Guide, Dr. Cheung cautions, “some exercises and activities can harm weakened bones and these must be avoided by people with osteoporosis. It is crucial that you choose exercises that are beneficial to you and your bones.”

Be sure to consult with your doctor before starting an exercise program. If you have a heart condition, chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, high blood pressure or a bone or joint condition, you should talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program.


More Resources:

Osteoporosis Exercise Guide

Precautions for Osteoporosis Exercises

Exercise videos for Osteoporosis and Bone Strength

Osteoporosis Canada Bone Fit program