Best exercises for strong bones

Physical exercise has many benefits, including helping to build strong bones. When we exercise, our muscles pull on our bones and cause them to increase in strength and density.1 The best forms of exercise for bone health include both weight bearing, where the body has to work against gravity, and muscle strengthening exercises.

Weight bearing exercises can be either high impact or low impact. High impact weight bearing exercises include:2

  • Running or jogging
  • Dancing
  • Tennis

If you are at risk of breaking a bone, you may need to avoid high impact exercises. In this case, low impact weight bearing exercises are a good alternative. These include:2

  • Low impact aerobics
  • Brisk walking
  • Using a stair or stepping machine at the gym

Muscle strengthening exercises, also known as resistance exercises, are ones where you move your body, a weight or some other resistance against gravity. These include:2

  • lifting weights
  • using elastic exercise bands

In order to get the most benefit for our bones, exercise should be done regularly, at least three times per week. Ideally, it should also increase in difficulty over time. For example, the amount of weight used and/or the degree of difficulty should increase or vary in order to keep providing a challenge to bones and muscles. Exercise should also be performed in short, intense bursts, rather than in one long session.3

Exercise is only one part of preventing or treating osteoporosis. A proper diet high in calcium and vitamin D is also important. Nevertheless, exercise and good nutrition may not always be sufficient to protect against bone loss; certain medical conditions, menopause, excessive alcohol consumption and tobacco use also impact on bone health. Speak to your doctor for individual advice if you are concerned about your bone health.4