Exercises to build your bone strength in your teens

Up to 90% of peak bone mass is achieved by the age of 18 in girls and by the age of 20 in boys, making childhood and adolescence the best time to invest in bone health.1 In addition to adequate calcium and vitamin D intake, regular exercise is essential for maximising bone mass and strength during the teenage years helping to optimise bone health in later life. The best bone-building exercises for teens are those of a weight-bearing nature, especially:

  • Sports associated with high impact forces such as2
    • Gymnastics.
    • Volleyball.
    • Basketball/netball.
  • Sports that require variable loads or ‘odd-impact’ loads to the skeleton such as2
    • Football.
    • Tennis.
    • Handball.
  • Dancing, skipping with a rope, stair walking and running/brisk walking are also beneficial.3

In addition, bones favour activities that require you to lift your own body weight or work against a resistance. For example, doing push-ups and chin-ups or using weights.2 Bones also respond to:3

  • Exercise that gets progressively harder.
  • Short, high intensity bursts of exercise rather than slower low impact sessions.
  • A variety in the exercise routine – so incorporate a couple of different sports into your routine.

Swimming and bike riding, whilst good for general health, have little benefit for bones.3

Unfortunately, health surveys indicate that around 40% of Australian children do not participate in sport outside of school4 and around 67% of people aged 15 and over are mostly sedentary or do low levels of exercise.5

How much exercise do teens need?

For overall health, it is recommended that Australian teens participate in 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity exercise every day, and should limit their time on activities that compete with physical activity, such as playing computer games and using the internet.4 Bone-strengthening exercises should be included at least three times a week as part of these 60 minute sessions.6