Exercises for Osteoporosis

If you've been diagnosed with osteoporosis, you've likely been told which activities to avoid to prevent additional fractures, falls, or permanent disability.

Certain types of exercise can indeed increase your risk of injury. However, there are many low-impact, weight-bearing, and strengthening exercises that you can safely do to fortify bones and muscles in your hips and spine and improve your overall function.

This article discusses hip and spine exercises that can be safe to perform when you have osteoporosis.

Senior man working with a physical therapist on strengthening exercises with a resistance band.

Halfpoint / Getty Images

Check With Your Healthcare Provider

Check with your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise program. If you are concerned about exercising safely, or if your osteoporosis is severe, consider seeing a physical therapist for an individualized exercise plan.

Low vs. High-Impact Exercises

When choosing safe exercises to perform with osteoporosis, first consider whether the activity is low or high impact.

High-impact exercises are usually high-intensity exercises that place a lot of stress on your joints. They usually involve running and jumping. Low-impact exercises, such as swimming or walking, place less strain on your joints.

High-impact exercises are not appropriate for people who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis. Increased pressure through your already-weakened bones can significantly increase your risk of fractures.

High-impact exercises also increase the risk of falls, which can lead to fractures.

Core Exercises

Core exercises target muscles in the trunk and pelvis that help stabilize the spine and hips. Choose core exercises that keep your spine straight—for some people, repeated forward bending (such as during traditional sit-ups) or bending over while holding weights, can increase risk of spinal fracture.

Kneeling Plank

This exercise is a modification of a more traditional plank. Perform it as follows:

  1. Position yourself on your hands and knees.
  2. Walk your hands forward until you are in a push-up position while keeping your knees on the ground.
  3. Tighten the muscles in your abdomen and buttocks.
  4. Hold this position for 10 seconds, and gradually increase the time as your strength improves.

If this position is too challenging, lower yourself to your elbows, with your forearms resting on the ground.

Pelvic Tilt

Pelvic tilt exercises help to strengthen and stretch your abdominal muscles. They are done in the following way:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet resting on the floor.
  2. Place your hands on your hips.
  3. Inhale, then slowly exhale.
  4. As you exhale, tighten your abdominal muscles as if you are pulling your belly button toward your spine. You should feel the muscles under your fingertips tighten.
  5. Hold for two to three seconds, then relax.
  6. Repeat 10 times.

Progressing Pelvic Tilts

Once you've mastered the basic pelvic tilt, add movements to make this exercise harder. While holding the position, add some marching. Lift one foot a few inches off the ground, then lower it. Repeat on the opposite side.

Weight-Bearing Exercises

Weight-bearing exercises are particularly important if you have osteoporosis. These exercises, performed in a standing position, place "healthy" stress on the bones in your spine and legs, making them stronger.

Weight-bearing exercises that can be safe for people with osteoporosis include:

  • Walking (outdoors or on a treadmill)
  • Tai-chi
  • Elliptical trainers
  • Stair-stepping machines
  • Low-intensity aerobics

When Weight-Bearing Exercise Is Unsafe

Weight-bearing high-impact exercises, such as jogging or dancing, can put too much pressure on your weakened bones if you have osteoporosis. You are also at higher risk of falling, which can lead to fractures.

Hip Osteoporosis Exercises

In addition to weight-bearing activities, you can also practice exercises to increase the strength of muscles around your hips when you have osteoporosis.

Clamshells

Clamshell exercises can help stabilize and strengthen your hips. To perform clamshells:

  1. Lie on your left side with your knees bent and legs stacked on top of each other.
  2. Keeping your feet together, lift your right knee toward the ceiling—this will open the "clamshell" formed by your legs.
  3. Hold for two to three seconds, then slowly lower your right knee down.
  4. Repeat 10 times, then switch sides.

Make this exercise harder by placing a resistance band around your thighs, just above your knees.

Bridges

The bridge exercise helps strengthen your glutes (butt), stabilize your core, and can help relieve back pain. To perform bridges:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet resting on the floor. Rest your arms by your sides.
  2. Squeeze your buttocks together and lift your hips off the ground. Keep your shoulder blades in contact with the ground.
  3. Hold for two to three seconds, then lower back down.
  4. Repeat 10 times.

Progress this exercise by marching your feet while holding a bridge position.

Standing 4-Way Hip Exercise

This exercise requires balance, so if you have challenges balancing, hold onto the back of a chair or counter for support. Perform this exercise as follows:

  1. Stand up straight. Shift your weight onto your left leg.
  2. Keeping your right knee straight and your upper body still, lift your right leg out in front of you.
  3. Bring it back to the starting position and repeat 10 times.
  4. Repeat this exercise by lifting your leg back behind you, out to the side, and crossing it in front of your body. Perform 10 repetitions in each position.
  5. Repeat on the opposite leg.

Spine Osteoporosis Exercises

Strengthening muscles around your spine can improve your posture and stability if you have osteoporosis.

Superman Back Extension

Look at the ground to reduce strain on your neck. Perform it in the following way:

  1. Lie on your stomach. Place a small pillow under your hips, if needed, for support.
  2. Raise your arms overhead.
  3. Lift your arms and legs a couple of inches off the ground at the same time.
  4. Hold for three to five seconds, then lower back down.
  5. Repeat 10 times.

Bird Dog Exercise

This exercise requires balance and helps strengthen core muscles by doing the following:

  1. Position yourself on your hands and knees.
  2. Keep your neck straight by looking at the ground between your hands.
  3. Lift your right arm straight out in front of you.
  4. At the same time, straighten your left knee and lift your leg until it is parallel to the ground.
  5. Hold this position for two to three seconds, then return to the starting position.
  6. Repeat with the opposite arm and leg.
  7. Perform five repetitions on each side.

If the bird dog exercise is too hard, begin by lifting one arm or leg at a time.

Chin Tucks

Chin tucks target and strengthen neck muscles. To perform chin tucks:

  1. Sit up straight on a firm surface. Squeeze your shoulder blades down and together.
  2. Pull your head straight back as if you are making a "double chin."
  3. Hold for two to three seconds, then relax.
  4. Repeat 10 times.

Don't Forget to Stretch

Stretching is an essential component of an exercise program when you have osteoporosis. Maintaining your flexibility can improve posture and range of motion, which is often negatively impacted by this condition. Hold each position for at least 20–30 seconds when performing stretches, but avoid positions that cause pain. Repeat stretches three or four times.

Summary

Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens your bones and carries risks for many types of exercise. However, there are safe ways to strengthen your core, spine, and hips. Low-impact, weight-bearing exercises are particularly important for bone and muscle health.

A Word From Verywell

If you've been diagnosed with osteoporosis, staying physically active is essential. Talk to your healthcare provider before beginning an exercise program. Extra caution must be taken to reduce the risk of bone fractures, which can lead to permanent disability. Consult a physical therapist for an individualized program that you can safely perform.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does exercise reverse osteoporosis?

    Exercise helps to increase bone strength, but it won't reverse osteoporosis on its own. Treatment also includes taking dietary supplements, such as calcium and vitamin D, and sometimes hormone replacement therapy.

  • Which foods should you avoid while exercising with osteoporosis?

    If you've been diagnosed with osteoporosis, you should reduce your intake of added sugars, saturated fats, and processed meat. Make sure you are eating enough protein, and add fruits, whole grains, and nuts to your diet.

  • How do you quickly increase bone density?

    It takes months for bone density to increase. However, practicing weight-bearing exercises, avoiding smoking, and getting adequate calcium and vitamin D can help support the process.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Osteoporosis: diagnosis, treatment, and steps to take.

  2. Hartley GW, Roach KE, Nithman RW, et al. Physical therapist management of patients with suspected or confirmed osteoporosis: a clinical practice guideline from the academy of geriatric physical therapyJ Geriatr Phys Ther. 2022;44(2):E106-E119. doi:10.1519/JPT.0000000000000346

  3. Bone Health & Osteoporosis Foundation. Weight bearing.

  4. Yoon JO, Kang MH, Kim JS, et al. Effect of modified bridge exercise on trunk muscle activity in healthy adults: a cross sectional study. Brazilian Journal of Physical Therapy. 2018;22(2):161-167. doi:10.1016/j.bjpt.2017.09.005

  5. Harvard Health Publishing. Effective exercises for ostoeporosis.

  6. Bhatnagar A, Kekatpure AL. Postmenopausal osteoporosis: a literature reviewCureus. 14(9):e29367. doi:10.7759/cureus.29367

By Aubrey Bailey, PT, DPT, CHT
Aubrey Bailey is a physical therapist and professor of anatomy and physiology with over a decade of experience providing in-person and online education for medical personnel and the general public, specializing in the areas of orthopedic injury, neurologic diseases, developmental disorders, and healthy living.