Battling Bone Loss: Using Exercise to Combat Osteoporosis


One of the most widely common problems is also one you might not even know you have – osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition that makes bones weak and brittle because new bone creation does not keep up with old bone removal. This condition that can lead to even more serious problems like falls and broken bones.  Osteoporosis mostly affects women over 41-years old (4). However, exercise is a great way to be proactive! Most of us have heard that weight-bearing exercises are effective in preventing and treating osteoporosis, but have you ever been told why? Luckily, we’re about to tell you! We are going to delve into how and why loading up the body helps rebuild bone structure.

Your Ever-changing Bones

Let’s start by talking about general bone structure. Your body is constantly stripping bone away and replacing it with new bone; similar to your skin sloughing away and regenerating new cells. The problem with osteoporosis comes when your body can’t replace bone at the same pace as it removes bone. In order to initiate new bone growth, stress that is slightly greater than the stress caused from everyday tension must be put on bones. Once this happens on a regular basis, the body allocates resources and nutrients to build bone mass in order to resist fractures (2). A regular exercise routine provides both the necessary stress to the bones and regular occurrence needed for the rebuilding process to occur.

What Kind of Exercise is Best?

Exercise is crucial because physical inactivity has been shown to decrease bone density and cause other health issues. At this point, you may be asking yourself what kind of exercise you should be doing to prevent osteoporosis. While both aerobic exercise and resistance training can provide the weight-bearing stimulation needed for bone growth, resistance training in particular is able to be more site-specific than aerobic exercise and it can target certain body parts (3). Other types of exercise are helpful to prevent osteoporosis, but a progressive loading style resistance program, one in which the weight you are lifting is increased little by little after each set, is best for stressing bones in a way that promotes bone growth.

Exercise Plans

Since we have determined what type of exercise you need to be doing, let us discuss the structure of your exercise program. Exercise structure can be changed up in order to keep things fun. For example, check out the two exercise programs below for simple sit-to-stands below:

Tip: To do a sit-to-stand, set up a chair in your home and stand up and sit down without using your hands

Option 1: [4×12] Routine. T

  • Round 1: 12 sit-to-stands. Rest.
  • Round 2: 12 sit-to-stands. Rest.
  • Round 3: 12 sit-to-stands. Rest.
  • Round 4: 12 sit-to-stands. Rest.

Between rounds, add weight little by little to increase the load.

Option 2: Drop Set [5×12, 10, 8, 6, 4]

  • Round 1: 12 sit-to-stands. Rest
  • Round 2: 10 sit-to-stands. Rest
  • Round 3: 8 sit-to-stands. Rest.
  • Round 4: 6 sit-to-stands. Rest.
  • Round 5: 4 sit-to-stands.

The key to this type of routine is to increase the weight between rounds at a greater rate than in the [4×12] routine. Since you are doing less reps you should increase the load more significantly each set.

Get Moving!

Your choice in movement is also a factor in an effective workout routine. Exercises that involve multi-joint movements have been shown to have a more significant change in bone structure than exercises that isolate one muscle or body part (2). Bending simultaneously at the hip and knee is a good way to encourage bone growth at the hip and femur. Pulling and pushing motions while bracing the core are great ways to incorporate multi-joint movements to increase bone density in the arms, spine, and shoulder structures. For spinal health, isometric (not changing muscle length) core-specific training is key and make sure to avoid core movements that require forward bending, like crunches (1).

Now that we’ve covered designing your structured movement plan, you are ready to prevent or reverse osteoporosis! These adaptations generally take about six months to see a change in bone density, but the change is initiated within the first few sessions (2). Be patient and don’t get discouraged! Come in and see one of our physical therapists for an evaluation and to talk about some more ways to safely strengthen your bones to prevent falls and increase bone density. Keep working hard and graduate to work with one of our Wellness Coordinators and progress your movements to the next level!


  • Bone, Muscle and Joint Team. “The Best Workouts for Osteoporosis.” Health Essentials, 2018,
  • French, Duncan. “Chapter 5: Adaptations to Anaerobic Training Programs.” Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, by Greg Haff and N. Travis Triplett, Human Kinetics, 2016, pp. 97–99.
  • Layne, JE, and ME Nelson. The Effects of Progressive Resistance Training on Bone Density: a Review.1999,
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Osteoporosis.” Mayo Clinic, 2018,


Women & Weightlifting

Who said strong was only for the boys? We are throwing that idea out and encouraging everyone to be stronger. Everyone can benefit from weight training, also known as strength training. Strength training not only makes you stronger, but it can improve cardiovascular health, mental health, balance, and weight loss. When we say strength training will make you stronger, we are referring to functional strength. Functional strength is the strength required to complete everyday tasks such as picking up children or carrying groceries. Women have often shied away from weight lifting for fear of looking “bulky” or “manly”, but we are here to tell you that those myths are simply that: myths. There are countless benefits for women who weight train and here are a few of my favorite reasons!

#1: Improved Sleep & Enhanced Mood

Regular exercise can improve sleep cycles by allowing you to enter into more restorative sleep cycles and stay in those phases longer. Weight training can be a natural remedy to common sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea. Exercise releases endorphins that promote serotonin and dopamine regulation and lead to better relaxation. These hormones help to regulate anxiety and depression symptoms allowing a better overall mood.

#2: Bone Density

As women age, they are more likely to develop osteoporosis, a medical condition in which the bones become fragile and brittle. Also, during menopause, women lose estrogen, a hormone that helps protect bones, leaving them at a higher risk for bone fractures. Certain bone fractures, such as fractures in the hips or spinal column, can be debilitating or even life-threatening. However, bone density can be increased through regular weight training. According to Wolff’s Law, mechanical loading on the bones via muscles and tendons has a direct impact on bone growth. Therefore, during weight lifting the body adapts to the stress placed on it, and the bones feel it! Strength training creates pressure gradients within the bone’s canalicular framework. These changes in pressure cause the osteoblast and osteocytes to initiate cellular events that ultimately result in bone matrix production. Not only will you feel stronger, but you will notice increased balance and joint stability- both of which decrease the risks of falls and injury!

#3: Effective Weight Loss

Weight training is one of the most effective methods of weight loss. As you weight train, your muscles start to adapt. During these muscle adaptations your body composition changes, moving from adipose (fat) tissue to more lean muscle mass. As more lean muscle mass develops, there is an increase in the basal metabolic rate (BMR) because your body now requires more energy to run vital bodily functions while at rest. With an increased BMR, your body burns more calories throughout the day even after you have completed a workout. Strength training promotes a better balance between muscle and fat which aids in weight loss.