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Osteoporosis Special Report

6 Exercises To Help Build Bone Strength and Help Prevent Osteoporosis

This Special Report is intended for readers interested in learning about the prevention, diagnosis, and management of osteoporosis.

Long-term data confirm that the combination of increased physical activity and improved nutrition does help prevent bone loss. Johns Hopkins' experts report on the findings of a study from the University of Arizona, Tucson, on six bone-building exercises which could help prevent healthy people from developing osteoporosis.

Exercise and adequate calcium are two of the three essentials for preventing osteoporosis. Vitamin D is the third. Regular exercise can help limit bone loss, improve your balance and coordination, and strengthen the leg and torso muscles that help you stand upright. Calcium within bones makes them strong, and taking daily calcium supplements can ensure that your bones will remain strong.


New findings from a landmark study on how strength training affects the bone mineral density (BMD) of healthy, postmenopausal women without osteoporosis confirm the value of weight-bearing exercise.

Results from the University of Arizona’s BEST (Bone-Estrogen Strength Training) study show that those women who followed a regimen of weight-bearing and resistance exercises faithfully for four years, while taking calcium citrate supplements, had significant improvement in BMD at key skeletal sites, whether or not they were taking hormone replacement therapy.


Here’s why it works: When you put demands on bone, it responds by becoming stronger and denser. Any activity that works against gravity, including walking and climbing stairs, stimulates the growth of new bone tissue. Resistance training, or exercising with weights or resistance bands, can have an even more pronounced effect on bone.

What sets this regimen apart is the six specific exercises that help build bone in the wrist, hip, and spine -- three key fracture sites. The regimen includes the six exercises described below. Study participants did two sets of six to eight repetitions, three times a week.

Seventeen minutes of cardiovascular weight-bearing activity, such as stair climbing or treadmill walking with a weighted vest, as well as standing stretches, rounded out the regimen. The participants lifted increasingly heavier weights, emphasizing correct form and posture over number of repetitions in order to prevent injury.

Before trying the six exercises described below, talk with your doctor. Many of these exercises are not appropriate for older, sedentary people, or for those with significant osteoporosis, or vertebral compression fractures.

If you get your doctor’s consent, the next step is to talk with a physical therapist, or a trainer at your gym or health club to ensure you are using the proper technique. If you do go to a gym, make sure you learn how to use the weight machines to avoid injury.

You can achieve the best bone-building results by doing this regimen with exercise machines.

You can also do a similar workout at home using dumbbells and resistance bands (such as Theraband or Dynaband). In fact, resistance bands are one of the safest ways to strength train.

For starters, do one set of six to eight repetitions of each exercise and gradually build up to doing two sets. Once you can easily do two sets of six to eight repetitions, increase the weight by small increments, or move up to a higher-resistance band.

  • Exercise 1 -- Wall Squat. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, back against a wall. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, with your arms at your sides, palms facing inward. Slowly bend your knees and lower your buttocks 8 inches or more (but do not allow your hips to sink below knee level). Pause, then slowly return to the starting position.

  • Exercise 2 -- Back Extension. Lie face down on the floor with your legs straight, arms extended flat on the floor above your head, palms down. Keep your nose pointed downward and slowly raise your right leg and left arm off the floor (reach out as well as up). Keep your head and neck in line with your arm. Pause, then slowly return to the starting position. Now slowly raise your left leg and right arm together. Change sides and repeat.

  • Exercise 3 -- One-arm Military Press. Lie with your back on a bed or bench with your feet flat on the floor, holding a dumbbell in each hand on top of your chest. Press the weight straight up with one hand. Pause, then return it back down. Barely touch your chest, then repeat with the other hand. Alternate sides and repeat.

  • Exercise 4-- Seated Row. Sit on the floor with your legs fully extended. Hook a resistance band on the balls of your feet. Wrap each end of the band around your hands. Keeping your back straight, pull the band toward you with both arms. Pause, then slowly release your arms straight in front of you again.

  • Exercise 5 -- Leg Press. Lie on the floor, flat on your back, with your knees hugged into your chest. Place the center of a resistance band on the balls of your feet. Wrap each end of the band around your hands. Keep your elbows close to your sides and squeeze your inner thighs together as you press your legs up toward the ceiling. Pause, then draw your legs back down.

  • Exercise 6 -- Lat Pull-down. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees unlocked, and abdominals tight. Grasp a resistance band with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Lift your arms just above your head, palms facing forward as you look straight ahead. Extend your arms out to the sides at shoulder height, with your wrists firm and your elbows slightly bent. Pull your shoulder blades back and together and expand your chest. Return to starting position. Repeat.


Medical Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute for the advice of a physician. Click here for additional information: Health After 50 Disclaimer

Posted in Osteoporosis on June 6, 2008


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