Enhancing Bone Density Through Exercise | Muscle and Motion (2024)

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  • Enhancing Bone Density Through Exercise | Muscle and Motion (1)Uriah Turkel B.P.T
  • June 9, 2024
  • 7 minutes read

Most people know the benefits of strength training for building muscle mass (if you’re not, check out our article on Strength Training).
But did you know that strength training is crucial for building and maintaining bone mass?

You might have noticed a bone-building exercise group at your gym, usually of older adults lifting light weights of 1-3 kilograms. But is this the most effective way to increase bone mass? Can we enhance bone density earlier in life to protect ourselves from bone loss as we age? What are the consequences of losing bone mass?

In this Muscle and Motion article, I will address these questions and help you better understand the latest evidence about the best way to increase bone density.

Enhancing Bone Density Through Exercise | Muscle and Motion (2)

Understanding bone density decline

To understand why our bone density decreases over time, we must first understand how our bones are structured and function. Contrary to popular belief, bones are not just a rigid framework for our bodies that help it move around like a machine. Bones are living biological tissues constantly undergoing dynamic changes. They are continually remodeled through a delicate balance of formation and resorption. This process involves specialized cells, including:

  • Osteoblasts – in charge of producing new bone tissue
  • Osteoclasts – in charge of breaking down old bone

The interplay between these cells ensures that our bones remain strong yet flexible enough to withstand everyday stresses. Collagen, the protein framework within bones, provides flexibility, while minerals like calcium and phosphorus offer structural rigidity. Osteocytes are embedded in the mineral matrix and are mature bone cells that communicate with other cells to regulate this ongoing remodeling process.

However, this balance can shift as we age or experience hormonal changes. Bone resorption may outpace bone formation, leading to a net loss of bone density, a condition known as osteoporosis. This change makes bones more porous and fragile, increasing the risk of fractures.

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Who is at risk of osteoporosis?

According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), osteoporosis is a condition that can affect anyone, regardless of gender, race, or age. However, certain factors significantly increase the risk:

  • Age: The risk increases as you get older.
  • Gender: Women are more likely to develop osteoporosis, especially around menopause.
  • Race: Non-Hispanic white and Asian women are most at risk. African American and Hispanic women have a lower risk but are still significantly affected.
  • Medications: Certain medications, such as some cancer therapies and glucocorticoid steroids, can increase the risk of developing osteoporosis.
  • Lifestyle: People who consume excessive alcohol, smoke, or do not engage in regular physical activity are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.

How many people are affected by osteoporosis?

In the United States, approximately 10 million people are affected by osteoporosis. Additionally, another 34 million individuals have low bone mass density (BMD), known as osteopenia, which increases their risk of developing osteoporosis. The decrease in bone density associated with osteoporosis significantly raises the risk of fractures. Statistics show that 50% of women and 25% of men over the age of 50 will experience an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime, with hip fractures accounting for around 15% of these cases.[2] These figures highlight the critical need for intervention to prevent and treat osteoporosis.

The role of exercise in treating osteoporosis

Physical exercise plays a crucial role in preventing and treating osteoporosis. Just as muscles adapt to physical load by growing stronger, bones respond by increasing their density. Consistency is one of the key factors in exercise for improving bone density. Regular exercise not only improves bone mineral density but also significantly enhances the quality of life, reduces pain, and improves balance in people with osteoporosis.[3-4]

It is important to emphasize that young and older adults can improve their bone mineral density by exercising regularly.

Best exercises for keeping bones healthy

First and foremost, if you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis, it’s important to consult your doctor to discuss possible medical treatments. This article will focus on exercises that help improve bone density. It’s important to remember that individuals with osteoporosis have an increased risk of fractures, so a gradual exercise program is necessary.

Key principles for increasing bone density

  1. Weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises: Bones remain strong when subjected to regular work. Weight-bearing impact and muscle-strengthening exercises are the best way to maintain bone strength.
  2. Short bursts of activity: Short, intense bursts of activity are particularly effective for bone health. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) and alternating between running and strength exercises are excellent examples.
  3. Variety in movements: Incorporate a range of movements in different directions and at various speeds to improve bone health.
  4. Impact training: Impact training, which includes activities that involve jumping and landing, has a significant positive effect on bone density. Studies have shown that people participating in high-impact sports—such as volleyball, hurdling, squash, soccer, and speed skating—tend to have higher bone density compared to those involved in weightlifting.[5]
  5. Balance training: Incorporate exercises that improve balance into your training program. The main concern with decreased bone density is the increased risk of fractures from falls. Balance training can help prevent falls and reduce this risk.
  6. Gradual Progression: Gradually increase the load and impact of your exercises to allow your body to adapt and improve bone density over time. Ensure adequate rest between sessions to support recovery and bone remodeling.
Bone density building workout plan (3 days a week)

This workout plan is designed to improve bone density with three weekly sessions. Each session incorporates weight-bearing exercises, muscle-strengthening exercises, impact training, and balance exercises. The selected exercises focus on compound movements rather than isolation exercises to maximize the benefits.

In addition to this training program, meeting the recommended physical activity guidelines set by the World Health Organization (WHO) is essential. If you’re new to the gym or resistance training, don’t worry! We’ve got you covered. Check out this article, First Steps in the Gym: A Workout Program for Beginners, for a detailed guide.

Weekly schedule:

  • Monday: Full-Body Strength & Impact Training
  • Wednesday: Focused Resistance Training
  • Friday: HIIT, Impact & Balance Training

Workout Details:

Monday: Full-Body Strength & Impact Training

  1. Warm-Up (10 minutes): Light jogging or brisk walking
  2. Jumping Jacks (Warm-Up & Impact Exercise)
    • 3 sets of 20 reps
    • Goal: Full-body warm-up and improve bone density through impact
  3. Barbell Squat (Functional Exercise)
    • 3 sets of 8-12 reps
    • Goal: Strengthen legs and the spine, preventing vertebral fractures
  4. Weighted Walking Lunge (Balance & Lower Body Strength)
    • 3 sets of 12 reps per leg
    • Goal: Enhance balance lower body strength and add an impact element
  5. Rope Jumping (Aerobic and Impact Exercise)
    • 3 sets of 1 minute
    • Goal: Build bone mass, improve balance coordination, and prevent falls

Wednesday: Focused Resistance Training

  1. Warm-Up (10 minutes): Light jogging or stairs training
  2. Barbell Deadlift (Functional Exercise)
    • 3 sets of 8-12 reps
    • Goal: Strengthen legs and back, improve bone density, and enhance daily functional movements
  3. Push-Ups (Upper Body Strength)
    • 3 sets of 10-15 reps
    • Goal: Strengthen chest, shoulders, and triceps.
    • Advance: Add impact to increase bone density in your upper body by using the jumping push-up with different incline levels.
  4. Rows (Back Strength)
    • 3 sets of 8-12 reps
    • Goal: Strengthen upper back and improve posture
  5. Dumbbell Shoulder Press (Upper Body Strength)

Friday: HIIT, Impact & Balance Training

    1. Warm-Up (10 minutes): Light jogging or brisk walking
    2. HIIT Circuit (Repeat 3 times) Adjust the rest and work time according to your fitness level and gradually increase
  • Balance Exercises
    • Single-leg stands (3 sets of 30 seconds each leg)
    • Heel-to-toe walk (3 sets of 20 steps)
    • Goal: Improve balance and prevent falls

To summarize, this article highlights the importance of strength training in preventing osteoporosis and reducing fracture risks by building and maintaining bone density. We identify key risk factors for osteoporosis, such as age, gender, and lifestyle choices. We emphasize the importance of regular weight-bearing activity, strength training, and the impact of enhancing bone density.
It provides a detailed workout plan that includes impact training, HIIT, resistance training, and balance exercises, promoting gradual progression to improve bone strength.

Ever wondered what makes our anatomical animations so accurate and engaging?Click hereto learn about our Quality Commitment and the experts behind our content.

At Muscle and Motion, we believe that knowledge is power, and understanding the ‘why’ behind any exercise is essential for your long-term success.
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  1. NIAMS. (2017, April 7). Osteoporosis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.
  2. Leigey, D., Irrgang, J., Francis, K., Cohen, P., & Wright, V. (2009). Participation in high-impact sports predicts bone mineral density in senior Olympic athletes. Sports Health, 1(6), 508–513.
  3. Marcu, R. I., Patru, S., Bighea, A. C., Traistaru, R., and Popescu, R. S. (2015). FRI0288 Role of physical exercice program in patients with osteoporosis. Ann. Rheum. Dis. 74, 521–529.
  4. Filipović, T. N., Lazović, M. P., Backović, A. N., Filipović, A. N., Ignjatović, A. M., Dimitrijević, S. S., et al. (2021). A 12-week exercise program improves functional status in postmenopausal osteoporotic women: Randomized controlled study. Eur. J. Phys. Rehabil. Med. 57, 120–130.
  5. Nikander, R., Sievänen, H., Heinonen, A., & Kannus, P. (2005). Femoral neck structure in adult female athletes subjected to different loading modalities. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research: The Official Journal of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research, 20(3), 520–528.

Enhancing Bone Density Through Exercise | Muscle and Motion (6)

Uriah Turkel B.P.T

Uriah Turkel B.P.T, graduated from Ariel University School of Health Sciences, Physiotherapy Department.Uriah works as a content creator specialist at Muscle and Motion, his areas of expertise are anatomy, kinesiology, sports rehabilitation, gait analysis, rheumatology, and pain neuroscience.During his first degree, he conducted research on treatment methods for chronic ankle instability and the effects of Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) on Peroneal Muscle Function in the Neuromuscular & Human Performance Lab. Currently, he is pursuing a Master of Science at the same lab, researching cognitive and gait decline during aging.

PrevPreviousAnatomy of the Hip Joint: Bones, Ligaments, and Muscles

Enhancing Bone Density Through Exercise | Muscle and Motion (2024)


Enhancing Bone Density Through Exercise | Muscle and Motion? ›

The two types that are most effective for building strong bones are weight-bearing exercise and strength-training exercise. Exercises to improve bone strength are site-specific. For example, walking can improve bone strength in the legs and spine but not in the wrist.

How to increase bone density with exercise? ›

The best way to keep bones strong is to do both weight-bearing impact and muscle-strengthening exercises. Short bursts of activity are ideal for bones. For example, running then jogging, or jogging then walking. Variety is also good for bones.

What drink is good for bone density? ›

To help prevent osteoporosis, instead sip these drinks:
  • 8 ounces of orange juice fortified with calcium and vitamin D.
  • A mixture of fortified orange juice and seltzer or club soda that's free of phosphoric acid.
Aug 31, 2023

What are exercises that increase bone density in Quizlet? ›

Weight-bearing exercises like running and jumping increase bone density.

What type of exercise can reverse osteoporosis? ›

Exercises that are good for people with osteoporosis include: weight-bearing, impact loading exercise such as dancing. resistance training using free weights such as dumbbells and barbells, elastic band resistance, body-weight resistance or weight-training machines.

How to build bone density naturally? ›

11 ways to increase bone density naturally
  1. Weightlifting and strength training. ...
  2. Eat more vegetables. ...
  3. Consume calcium throughout the day. ...
  4. Eat foods rich in vitamins D and K. ...
  5. Maintain a moderate weight. ...
  6. Avoid a low calorie diet. ...
  7. Eat more protein. ...
  8. Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

How to increase bone density after 60? ›

Maintain a healthy weight, and make sure your diet has plenty of calcium, vitamin D, and protein. Get a little sunshine every day, and avoid smoking and excessive alcohol use. You can also talk to your doctor about medications to help preserve bone density.

Which fruit is best for bones? ›

If you're looking for bone-strengthening fruits, figs should be near the top of your shopping list. Five medium fresh figs have around 90 milligrams of calcium and other skeleton-saving nutrients like potassium and magnesium.

Does apple cider vinegar increase bone density? ›

Long term ingestion of excessive amounts (>1-2 tablespoons in an 8-ounce glass of water) of even diluted ACV can cause low potassium levels and lower bone density. It has also been thought that ACV may interact negatively with antidiabetic medications, digoxin, diuretic drugs and insulin.

Does caffeine help bone density? ›

Caffeine consumption appears to increase your risk of losing bone density, which can lead to osteoporosis (brittle bone disease) and broken bones. This article looks at the research behind caffeine and osteoporosis, how much caffeine is too much, what it means for your osteoporosis risk, and how to mitigate it.

Which exercise stimulates the largest amount of bone mineral density? ›

The two types that are most effective for building strong bones are weight-bearing exercise and strength-training exercise. Exercises to improve bone strength are site-specific. For example, walking can improve bone strength in the legs and spine but not in the wrist.

Which type of exercise is most likely to increase bone mineral density? ›

Strength training includes the use of free weights, resistance bands or your own body weight to strengthen muscles, tendons and bones. Strength training is especially helpful to build back muscles that are important for posture. It also can help support bone density.

Which of the following activities is the most helpful for increasing bone mass? ›

Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, and climbing stairs, can help you build strong bones and slow bone loss. Avoid substance abuse. Don't smoke.

What are the three worst bone density drugs? ›

A variety of medications can increase bone loss and/or fall risk:
  • Synthetic Glucocorticoids (e.g. Prednisone) ...
  • Breast Cancer Drugs. ...
  • Prostate Cancer Drugs. ...
  • “Heartburn” Drugs. ...
  • Depo-Provera. ...
  • Excessive Thyroid Hormone Replacement. ...
  • Anti-seizure and Mood-altering Drugs. ...
  • Blood Pressure Medication.

What exercise increases bone density the most? ›

Which exercises are best for keeping bones healthy?
  • Brisk walking (3 to 4 miles per hour).
  • Jogging or running.
  • Tennis, badminton, ping pong, pickleball, and other racket sports.
  • Climbing stairs.
  • Dancing.
May 9, 2023

What foods aggravate osteoporosis? ›

Foods to avoid
  • Salty foods. The Bone Health & Osteoporosis Foundation (BHOF) notes that eating foods high in salt causes the body to lose calcium and can lead to bone loss. ...
  • Alcohol. Alcohol can have a detrimental effect on bone health. ...
  • Foods with added sugars.
  • Foods with high oxalates and phytates.
May 25, 2022

Can you build back bone density? ›

While many people believe that once bone density is lost, it cannot be regained, recent research suggests that it may be possible to rebuild bone density and achieve osteoporosis reversal through a combination of lifestyle changes, such as exercise and diet, and medical interventions, such as medication.

How long does it take to build bone density? ›

The bone-building phase in young adults -- at its speediest -- takes three to four months, and it may take a lot longer if you have osteoporosis or are older. So you won't be seeing big changes on any bone density tests after your first week of working out. Bones change slowly -- but they do change.

How much weight should I lift to increase bone density? ›

We measure activity by how many multiples of body weight is loaded on the skeleton. Scientists in the United Kingdom, using accelerometers, did a cross sectional study in teens and determined that the amount of loading required to stimulate the bone building process equals 4.2 times body weight.


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