What types of exercise are best to improve my bone strength (aka bone mineral density - BMD) if I have osteoporosis?
Basically, a combination of exercise is best. We know for sure that weight-bearing (WB) exercises help build bone density, which means any type of exercise that is putting weight through your bones. So for your legs and spine, this would be any upright/standing exercises. For your arms and upper trunk, this would be anything that puts weight through your arms like planks or push-ups (yes, even the version on the wall!). The cool thing is that we also see these improvements in BMD with any type of resistance exercise: free weights, dumbbells, resistance bands, etc. The sky is the limit! And of course, we know generally that people with OP are at a higher risk for falls and broken bones as a result of those falls. So including some balance training and aerobic exercises are recommended as well.
How often do I need to exercise to see improvements in my bone health?
Studies indicate that to achieve an increase in bone mineral density, the frequency of training should be 2–3 times per week for 30–60 minutes, depending on the intensity. Twelve weeks’ duration is the minimum to see increases in BMD.
Is there any research showing the benefits of certain types of exercise?
Absolutely! Here’s a short list:
Aerobic weight-bearing exercises: walking, stair climbing, jogging, dancing, and Tai Chi have all been shown to be beneficial for bone health (note: walking alone isn’t enough to improve BMD unless paired with another type of exercise!)
Resistance training: especially focused on the glutes, lower back, and upper body
Hi-intensity resistance and impact training (HiRIT): HiRIT has the potential to be better at improving bone density as it is more intense than low-impact exercise, and has been shown to be safe in postmenopausal people with vulvas who have osteopenia and osteoporosis
Balance/coordination exercises: can reduce fall risk and thus fracture risk
Whole-body vibration: this is a therapy intervention in which the whole body is vibrated to activate mechanoreceptors that help improve bone growth
Aquatic therapy (exercise in a pool): exercise in the pool is often tolerated better by older adult patients, plus a review found that it can be successful in maintaining BMD
This is all so fascinating! So how can MommaStrong help?
MommaStrong is a form of HiRIT! So it can definitely help improve bone density. Plus, we have a whole separate program specifically devoted to resistance training called Loaded. This is included in your regular MommaStrong membership, but is recommended for more-experienced MommaStrong members. If you are just starting out in MommaStrong, our regular programming is more than enough to start building bone strength!
Dressendorfer, R, BscPT, PhD, and A, MPT Callanen. “Osteoporosis and Exercise.” CINAHL Rehabilitation Guide, edited by DhSc, MSPT, PT Richman S, Aug. 2021. EBSCOhost, https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rrc&AN=T709163&site=eds-live
National Institutes of Health (NIH) page on osteoporosis diagnosis, treatment, and steps to take: https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/osteoporosis/diagnosis-treatment-and-steps-to-take
Bone Health and Osteoporosis Foundation: https://www.bonehealthandosteoporosis.org/