Exercise and Osteoporosis: How Exercise Prevents Bone Loss

We tend to think of bones as hard, immovable, inert objects. But the truth is, our bones are very much alive. They help produce our red blood cells. They grow and change in response to stress — and they can heal themselves.

Because our bones respond to stress, we can strengthen them by making them work. This is especially important for people at risk for osteoporosis, a condition that causes the body to lose minerals in the bones, weakening them over time.

Exercise, especially weight-bearing exercise, can stop bone loss, and prevent bone loss from happening in the first place.

Risk Factors for Osteoporosis

If you have any of these osteoporosis risk factors, you should talk to your doctor about developing an exercise routine. Regular exercise can increase the density of bones, and reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis.

  • Being female
  • Smoking
  • Having a low body weight (less than 127 pounds)
  • Being of Caucasian or Asian ancestry
  • Having a family history of osteoporosis
  • Long-term treatment with glucocorticoids
  • Being of advanced age

Exercise, Bone Health, and Osteoporosis

The best exercises for preventing osteoporosis are ones that move your body against gravity. Think weightlifting, dancing, and high-impact aerobics.

You should only take on these activities if you do not already have osteoporosis and are healthy enough to participate. Low-impact activities are also a great way to stay active while minimizing the wear and tear on your bones. Try walking or using an elliptical machine. Elastic bands and hand weights can help build muscle strength while minimizing your risk of falls and fractures.

What Can I Do If I Already Have Osteoporosis?

If you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis, talk to your doctor about how to include exercise in your lifestyle.

Your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist, who can help strengthen your upper back, develop your balance, and teach you ways to avoid injury. Because your bones are more susceptible to fracture, you will need to be careful while performing high-impact exercises.

To learn more about osteoporosis, make an appointment by calling 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Visit the website for the Osteoporosis and Bone Health Program at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC.