Exercise and physical activity for osteoporosis and bone health

Exercise is important for bone health and osteoporosis. 

Everyone can benefit from exercise. You can exercise whatever your age, condition or whether you've broken bones. Exercise is very unlikely to cause a broken bone.

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About exercise

Why is exercise important? 

Exercise is important because it can help you to: 

  • make your muscles and bones stronger - leading to less broken bones 
  • improve your balance so you're less likely to slip, trip or fall 
  • reduce your risk and symptoms of other medical conditions 
  • continue to do everyday activities and live independently when you're older
  • improve your brain function, make you happier and build your confidence. 


Can exercise help if I have osteoporosis? 

If you've been diagnosed with osteoporosis, or are at risk, you may be wondering whether exercise can help make your bones stronger or if it's safe. 

It's never too late to start moving. Even a small amount of exercise could slow down the loss of bone strength. Your bone strength may even improve if you're well enough to do some more intense exercise. 

We want you to be confident and do exercise you enjoy. You should do more exercise, not less.

If you've had spinal fractures or many broken bones, you may need to change some exercises to be on the safe side. But exercise is unlikely to cause a broken bone. 

It's important to find exercise and movements that work for you. 


What exercise can I do to help my bones? 

Three types of exercise and movement can help your bones. These are exercises that: 

All three types of exercise are important for your bones. It's important to build your own programme of exercise you enjoy and is at a level that's right for you to meet your needs. 


Bone and muscle-strengthening

Find out how exercise can help improve bone and muscle strength

More about this bone and muscle-strengthening film

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Keeping steady

Find out how exercise can help improve your balance and muscle-strength, making you less likely to fall over and break a bone

More about this balance and muscle-strengthening film

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Caring for your back

Find out how exercise and safe moving and lifting techniques can help you care for your back, whether or not you've had spinal fractures 

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Before and after exercise

Find out how to prepare and warm up before exercise and cool down after

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If you’re still unable to watch the films, you can find all of our exercise films on YouTube.

Common questions about exercise and osteoporosis 

Exercise helps to build bone strength when you're a child and throughout your 20s. This is because your bones grow in size and strength during this time. 

We don't have enough evidence to know if exercise keeps building bone strength when you reach your 30s. But we do know exercise helps to stop the loss of bone strength as you get older.

Research has shown that more intense impact and muscle-strengthening exercises may improve bone strength. This could potentially improve bone density and reduce the risk of fractures. 

When you reach your 70s, you might not be able to manage the more intense impact and muscle-strengthening exercises. These are the types of exercise that are most likely to improve bone strength. 

But research has shown that being active makes you less likely to break a hip. It's also likely to maintain bone strength. 

At the very least, exercise makes you less likely to fall over. It may also help with pain after spinal fractures

Exercise is not a replacement for a drug treatment for osteoporosis. Your doctor will help you understand if your risk of fracture is high enough to need a drug treatment. If you’re given a drug treatment, exercise and keeping active is still important for your bone health.

There are situations where too much exercise can be bad for your bones and increase the risk of fractures. Exercising every day for many hours can cause fragile bones. Elite athletes and dancers are sometimes at risk of fragile bones.

Many factors come together to cause fragile bones, especially in women. These include:

  • not eating enough food for the amount of exercise you’re doing
  • low body weight
  • having low oestrogen levels – not having monthly periods could be a sign
  • not eating the correct nutrients.

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Falls and fractures are much more likely for anyone doing this type of activity. If you have osteoporosis, the risk of broken bones is going to be higher than people who don’t have osteoporosis. But it’s still not very likely you’ll break a bone.

If you’ve enjoyed these sports in the past, then that’s a good reason to carry on. These activities also help with balance and muscle strength. If you haven’t had any fractures, then the benefits are likely to outweigh the risks. You’ll have to make a decision that’s right for you.

The Government has published guidelines on their recommendations for exercises, based on age. The guidelines say:

  • children should do 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every day.
  • adults (under 65) should do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every week. For example, this could be 30 minutes spread over 5 days. Aerobic activity means getting warm and your heart rate up so you get slightly out of breath. The Government also recommends you also do muscle-strengthening exercise at least 2 days a week.
  • adults (over 65) should do the same amount of aerobic activity as those under 65. You should also do exercises to improve your balance and coordination at least 2 days a week and avoid sitting for a long time.

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