Exercises for Healthy Bones

Exercise is an important step towards protecting your bones, as it helps protect your spine, slows the rate of bone loss, and builds muscle strength, which can prevent falls.

If you are new to exercise, talk to your doctor before starting any type of program. Consider consulting with a physical therapist or certified kinesiologist, if needed, about specific exercises you should do and others you may need to avoid.

The table below will help you to identify the types of exercise you may perform, how often you should do them (frequency) and how hard you should work (intensity). Consider your current level of ability, your fracture risk (low, moderate, or high) and your overall health. Start at a level that is safe for you and progressively increase the difficulty of the exercises over time.

Type of exercise How often should I exercise? (Frequency) How hard should I work? (Intensity) For how long should I exercise? (Duration) What are the benefits of this type of exercise?
Strength training: Free weights, machines, exercise bands or body weight as resistance. At least 2 days of the week. If you can do more than 12 repetitions, the resistance is too easy. If you can’t do at least 8 reps, the resistance is too hard. Two sets of 8-12 repetitions per exercise. Include all major muscle groups. Improved muscle and bone strength, and mobility.
Balance training: Tai chi, dancing, other exercises designed to challenge balance. Every day. You can incorporate balance training with weight bearing and/or strength training exercise to save time. Beginners: “standing still” exercises (standing in one spot holding a posture) Advanced: dynamic exercises (challenge balance while moving around). May need guidance. 15-20 minutes each day, or 120 minutes per week. Can be all at once, in short bouts throughout the day, or built into daily activities. Improved mobility and balance. Fewer falls.
Weight-bearing aerobic physical activity: Walking, dancing, jogging, stair climbing, step aerobics, running. Most days of the week. Moderate or vigorous intensity, 5-8 on a 0-10 scale. Moderate intensity: you’ll sweat a little and breathe harder. Vigorous intensity: you’ll sweat and are breathing hard – you couldn’t say more than a few words without stopping to catch your breath. 20-30 minutes or more per day, for at least 10 minutes at a time. Accumulate 150 minutes or more per week. Improved heart health and bone strength. Reduced fracture risk.
Posture training: Safe movements that don’t put your bones at risk, awareness of position and posture (and back muscle strengthening). Practice proper position and good posture every day! Be conscious of posture. Perform exercises targeting the muscles that extend your spine. Use mirrors when exercising. Attention to posture during daily activities, as well as 5-10 minutes daily of exercises to improve posture. Less pressure on the spine. Reduced risk of falls and fractures, especially spine fractures.