Osteoporosis is a condition in which there is bone degeneration. In some cases, the bones lose their density to such an extent that the risk of fractured bones goes up substantially. As a result, many people with this condition refrain from rigorous physical activity. But in reality, patients diagnosed with this disease can benefit greatly from exercises that help to strengthen brittle bones.

Reduction in bone mass or degeneration in the tissues of bones leads to osteoporosis, a condition that is statistically more common among women. One of the reasons why women are more prone to osteoporosis is because of hormonal changes, making them four times more susceptible to it than men, as they lose bone mass quicker. A report published in the International Journal of Women’s Health in 2015 said that the cases of osteoporosis in India are on the rise: out of the 230 million Indians over the age of 50 in the country, 46 million are women living with this condition.

But while men and women both start losing bone mass after reaching the age of 30, regular exercise can protect and strengthen our bones as well as the bone tissues. It also promotes muscle growth in the body, which reduces the pressure on our bones and holds them in place.

Which exercises - and how much exercise - should be done by someone with osteoporosis can vary from person to person, depending on their individual bone health and overall medical history. So it is a good idea for patients to consult their doctor before pursuing any physical activity. The doctor may check the patient's bone density and perform a general fitness assessment before giving a go-ahead.

  1. Benefits of exercising with osteoporosis
  2. Types of exercises for osteoporosis
  3. Things to keep in mind before exercising with osteoporosis
  4. Takeaways of exercising with osteoporosis

Those with osteoporosis may become reluctant to perform physically demanding tasks and choose to live a sedentary life, but living without physical activity only adds to the condition with poor posture, balance and stability. Regular exercise, on the other hand, has the following benefits for people living with osteoporosis:

  • Reduces pain: Exercising regularly builds immunity in the body as well as greater resistance to pain that the body may be feeling due to this condition.
  • Conserves bone tissue: Bone tissues become weak and find it difficult to support the body’s weight, especially when they are put under physical strain. Weight-bearing exercises allow you to protect the remaining bone tissue and maintain its capacity.
  • Reduces bone loss: Bone density is greatly reduced in cases of osteoporosis. Exercise, coupled with a good nutrition programme, allows you to arrest that drop in the bones’ structural integrity.
  • Promotes muscle strength: It is well-known that any form of physical activity has a positive effect on various muscles of the body. Increased strength in the muscles ensures that it takes the burden from the bones and distributes it around the body.
  • Improves mobility: Osteoporosis patients often complain about their limited range of movement, as the bones become increasingly brittle. Regular exercise prevents that from happening and allows people to continue to move around with greater confidence and less fear of doing any kind of damage to their bones.
  • Improves balance and coordination: Patients with osteoporosis can lose coordination. The reason: due to the reduced capacity of their bones to bear weight, changes in direction or application of force can become more difficult for them year after year. Exercises help in building a greater sense of balance in the body and improves coordination in the limbs, preventing you from future falls.
  • Improves overall fitness: The onset of a condition like osteoporosis can bring about other limitations and illness as well, depleting your body’s resistance to infections and injuries. Being physically fit improves the body’s immunity as well, builds strength in the muscles and bones, as well as promoting better heart and lung health.
  • Reduces risk of fractures: Those who have had a fracture before are at a greater risk of suffering another. Physical exercise makes the bones and muscles strong, as well as the ligaments and tendons that connect them, building a stronger body system that is more resistant during accidental falls and fractures.
  • Has a positive impact on mental health: Physical activity has a positive effect on mental health. It prompts the brain to release endorphins in the body, which are linked to feelings of happiness and well-being.
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Based on your consultation with the doctor and factors including age, gender, severity of the condition and other parameters, a safe exercise plan can be worked out for each individual. People with osteoporosis are advised three or four days per week of exercise, which must be a combination of a few types of workouts that promotes better bone health:

Strength training for healthier bones

Working out in the gym has several benefits, not only for a healthy individual but also for people living with conditions such as osteoporosis. Strength or resistance training allows for an increase in muscle mass in the body, which reduces the pressure on the bones. People living with osteoporosis are advised at least two days of strength training activities in a week, along with other forms of physical training. Here are a few examples of strength training exercises one can do with osteoporosis:

Weight bearing exercises for osteoporosis

Exercises that one can perform while standing on their legs are load-bearing or weight-bearing movements and include walking, climbing stairs, aerobic exercises like dancing or playing sports like tennis, badminton or cricket. For the bones to build more resistance or retain their strength and density, it is important to perform more high-impact movements instead of low-impact exercises like cycling or swimming, as they do not boost bone strength.

That said, swimming may be useful for people with more severe forms of the disease as it will strengthen the muscles without putting too much pressure on the bones. It will also help in weight loss, which, in turn, will reduce the pressure on the bones while standing, walking and performing daily chores.

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Balancing exercises for osteoporosis patients

Exercises that promote balance in the body include simply balancing yourself on one leg, exercises using a swiss ball, yoga and tai chi (a series of slow movements done with an increased focus on breathing).

These are exercises that let your body build a better sense of coordination and balance to be able to prevent falls and injuries.

Flexibility exercises for osteoporosis

People with osteoporosis often complain about stiffness in the joints that limits their range of movement. Performing various flexibility exercises can help the body move around more freely than before. Some examples of flexibility exercises include yoga, various forms of stretching exercises as well as pilates - a system of exercises that focus on core strength and help to improve balance.

While physical therapists encourage regular exercise for people with osteoporosis, you should keep your own restrictions and limitations in mind before taking up any activity. If you haven't already done this, you should consult your doctor before performing:

  • High-intensity workouts or any kind of activities that can be stressful for the joints, particularly in the hip and the knees. This could include jumping, running, climbing or even trekking.
  • Those with spine problems arising out of osteoporosis are advised to avoid bending forward. They should avoid exercises like crunches, sit-ups, sudden motions that require you to twist your body. This is done to avoid sudden compression injuries in the back.
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The risk of developing osteoporosis increases with age. Women have higher chances of developing it due to hormonal changes as well as faster deterioration in the bones. Girls are also born with lower bone mass than boys.

A combination of medication, nutrition and a tailored fitness programme can greatly reduce the risk of fractures and other injuries, besides promoting healthier habits and lifestyle.

Osteoporosis patients are advised to mix up their physical activities and combine mobility exercises with strength training workouts to build strength and slow down further loss of bone density, but in a controlled environment, preferably under the watchful eyes of a physical trainer or therapist.


  1. Health Harvard Publishing: Harvard Medical School [Internet]. Harvard University, Cambridge. Massachusetts. USA; Effective Exercises for Osteoporosis.
  2. Better health channel. Department of Health and Human Services [internet]. State government of Victoria; Osteoporosis and Exercise
  3. National Health Service [Internet]. UK; Exercises for Strong Bones
  4. Osteoporosis Australia. [Internet] New South Wales, Australia. Exercise and bone density
  5. Royal Osteoporosis Society. [Internet] Camerton, Bath, UK. Exercise for bones
  6. Khadilkar AV and Mandlik RM. Epidemiology and treatment of osteoporosis in women: an Indian perspective. International Journal of Women's Health. 2015; 7: 841–850. PMID: 26527900.
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