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Your Exercise Prescription for Bone Health

This is a quick, easy-to-follow guide to exercise for Bone Health. Obviously, if you have not exercised for some time and are worried about certain health conditions, e.g. osteoporosis(OP), arthritis etc then you must talk to your doctor before embarking upon a new exercise program. Individuals with a diagnosis of osteoporosis or those at high risk of fractures, or taking drugs that cause bone loss should seek guidance first from their healthcare provider or work with a physical therapist who would tailor exercises to suit the individual personally.

Every good, well-rounded exercise program should include these vital elements:

  1.   Weight-Bearing Cardiovascular Activity
  • At least 4-5 times a week at least and 7 days a week if possible
  • Do at least 20mins a day building up to 30-45mins ( can be taken in shorter 10min bursts)
  • Weight-bearing activity builds bonesFit at 50
  • For those at low risk of OP (women under 50,men) : walk, jog, aerobics, high-impact work, skipping, jumping. High impact and higher intensity work doesn’t have to be done 4-5 times a week but only 2-3 times a week.
  • For those at higher risk (over 50,post-menopause,women,those on medication) concentrate on low impact aerobics, brisk walking . Avoid high impact exercises like jumping, running, excessive sudden, jerky movements.
  1.      Muscle-strengthening/Resistance Training
  • At least twice a week
  • Build up from 1 set of 12-15 repetitions to 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps. You should be able to lift the weights comfortably only beginning to strain on the last few reps. Build up slowly. You can work with heavier weights and fewer reps but always make sure you take guidance from a qualified instructor who will teach you correct technique and form.shutterstock_100162745
  • If you are at risk of fracture, you should avoid weights that are too heavy (Often the 10lbs/4.5kg rule is a good one to follow…heavier than this can put excessive strain on the spine)
  • Use free weights, Resistance machines at the gym, Resistance bands, body weight.
  • Tai chi, Yoga and Pilates incorporate body weight exercises.
  • Avoid too many chest-strengthening exercises which encourage tight pectoral muscles and encourage rounded shoulders , often seen in OP, and as we age

3.      Posture/balance/functional exercises

  • Especially important for seniors
  • Functional exercises include chair rises, calf raises, stair climbing ,squats.
  • Balance exercises include standing on one leg, standing on an unstable surface, walking tight-rope style, side stepping.
  • Posture training is really just being mindful of the way way you sit and stand. Remember :

Ears over shoulders:Shoulders over hips:Hips over knees:Knees over ankles

  • Gentle daily stretching, Tai chi, yoga can all help with posture and balance


Exercises to avoid for those at risk of osteoporosis or fracture:

  • SPINAL FLEXION: exercises that require bending the spine forward from the waist with straight legs (toe touches, sit-ups, bringing head closer to chest and rounding the spine into a “c”). These should be done by hinging from the hips and keeping the spine straight in a slow and mindful manner.
  • SPINAL ROTATION: twisting the spine to the point of strain especially when seated or standing (full golf swing, tennis swing)
  • HUNCHING/ROUNDING THE BACK: often used in Pilates and Yoga. You must find an instructor who has extra qualifications or experience dealing with medical conditions. Beware of classes in mainstream gyms; often instructors are not as highly qualified and do not check you for proper form. Always ask first.
  • Activities that increase the risk of falling: Always look after your safety first. Use props/chairs/walls etc to stabilise yourself.

There are many highly qualified instructors that hold specialist classes in the community or in leisure centres. It may seem more expensive than other classes but in my opinion it is well worth the cost. What you learn about your body, exercises and health through one to one sessions or specialist classes will improve your quality of life, confidence and well-being. Do your research first.

There is a lot of information you can access. Exercise really does work . It is a medicine and will help to prevent or delay the onset of many conditions and even improve your condition. Some valuable resources are:

National Osteoporosis Society

Excellent detailed information on exercise and OP

National Osteoporosis Foundation

Mayo Clinic