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Can Exercising Increase Your Bone Density?

What Is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a thinning of the bones that occurs over time for most people, but it is possible to treat and exercise can help.

Osteoporosis is associated with 1.2 million bone fractures each year. It is most common in women but it can also affect men as they age.

A major cause of osteoporosis is a lack of calcium in your diet. Adults need 1200 to 1,500 mg per day (4-5 8-ounce glasses of low-fat milk), but the average diet contains about 750 mg.

Increasing Bone Density

Research has proven that regular resistance training, performed 2-3 times a week can increase bone density. Building bone density early in life is the best way to prevent osteoporosis later on.

The most effective approach is weight-bearing exercise, which stimulates bone formation and retains calcium in the bones you are using to bear the weight. The force of muscles pulling bones stimulates this bone-building process so any exercise that places force on a bone will strengthen that bone.

Furthermore, by regularly performing resistance exercise, this will strengthen muscles that enable you to balance; for elderly people, better balance means falls are less likely, therefore safeguarding weaker bones.

Think gravity; any exercise that means you are working against gravity will potentially increase your bone density. This means that swimming and cycling are not what you’re looking for, but that you can benefit from weight lifting.

Example Exercises

If curling iron isn’t your cup of tea, consider the following:

  • Dancing
  • High-impact aerobics
  • Hiking
  • Jogging/running
  • Jumping rope
  • Stair climbing
  • Tennis

When your feet and legs support your weight, your bones have to work harder, making them stronger. In other words, any exercise you have to stand up for is ideal.

Regular jogging two or three times a week is a good way to keep a peace of mind. A recent study involving younger and older females revealed regular running strengthens the femur, hips and spine. Most effective of all is higher impact training. This refers to the direct force upon your body each time your foot lands when running. Road running has been proven to be more effective that treadmill training when it comes to impact and increasing bone density.


Weight lifting doesn’t have to mean body building. If you stick with the rule that an exercise needs to be performed standing up you will know that more of your bones will bear the weight. Try the following:

  • Kettlebell dead lifts
  • Standing shoulder press
  • Box squats

Depending on your recovery abilities and strength, you can either perform 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps at a light-moderate weight, or for more advanced lifters, perform 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps of a heavy weight.

There are a few things to keep in mind for your nutrition, which can also help with bone density. Make sure you consume adequate calcium, potassium, vitamin D and vitamin K. As for things to avoid, you might look at how much alcohol and caffeine you consume.

Doctors advise taking a 600 to 800 mg supplement of calcium every day, along with adequate vitamin D intake with food or with supplements. Studies have shown this can reduce the occurrence of fractures by up to 30 per cent. Without enough calcium in the diet, the body will leach it from the bones, causing them to weaken over time. Without enough vitamin D, the bones cannot absorb the calcium.

In conclusion, nutrition and the aforementioned exercises can help increase your bone density, but it is important that you take medical advice from a professional.

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Faye Reid

Faye Reid

Writer and expert

Faye Reid has a Master of Science in Sport Physiology and Nutrition. She puts her passion into practice as goal attack for her netball team, and in competitive event riding. Find out more about Faye's experience here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/faye-reid-8b619b122/.

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