What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a health condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break. The condition, which affects over 3 million people in the UK, develops slowly over several years and is often only diagnosed when a fall or sudden impact causes a bone to break (fracture).

Why is physical activity important for osteoporosis?

If you're looking to reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis or manage your current condition, regular physical activity is essential.

Keeping active helps to improve your overall cardiovascular fitness, strength, balance and bone density, which reduces your risk of developing the condition. If you have already been diagnosed with osteoporosis and weak bones, physical activity is extremely important because keeping active is one of the best ways you can reduce your risk of falls and fractures. It can also help to reduce pain.

If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, you may be fearful of taking part in exercise. But if you stop moving, you'll slowly lose strength and balance which will make you even more prone to falls and bone breaks.

How much physical activity should you be doing?

In order to reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis or manage your current condition, you should aim to take part in the recommended amount of physical activity for your age group, as outlined in the UK Chief Medical Officer's Physical Activity Guidelines.

For adults aged 19 and over, the recommended amount is at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week. Where possible, this should be a combination of cardiovascular, strength, flexibility and balance exercises. These could include:

  • Cardiovascular activities - brisk walking, cycling, swimming, dancing
  • Strength activities - resistance training, Yoga, Nordic Walking, carrying heavy shopping, heavy gardening
  • Balance/mobility - Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, body balance classes

Weight-bearing exercises and resistance exercises are particularly important for helping to preventing osteoporosis as these types of exercises both help to improve bone density.

  • Weight-bearing exercises - weight-bearing exercises are exercises where your feet and legs support your weight. Examples of these include walking, running, skipping, dancing, aerobics and even jumping up and down on the spot. These are all extremely useful ways to strength your muscles, ligaments and joints.
  • Resistance exercises - resistance exercises are exercises that use muscle strength. Examples of these include press-ups, weightlifting or using weight equipment at a gym.

If you have already been diagnosed with osteoporosis, you may need to avoid some types of high-impact exercises (e.g. running and jumping) as these could increase your risk of fracture. Instead, you should aim to take part in activities that help reduce your risk of falls and fractures. Recommended exercises for osteoporosis include:

  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi
  • Otago
  • Flexibility exercises
  • Chair-based exercises
  • Low-impact dancing
  • Low-impact aerobics
  • Cross-training machines

You may also be able to find an exercise referral scheme in your area that caters specifically for people with osteoporosis.

For more information about exercising with osteoporosis, visit the Royal Osteoporosis