Exercise: The Best Action You Can Take for Bone Health


By Alexandra Black, Health Promotion Manager at IHRSA

Bone and Joint Action Week, October 12th – 20th, is a week focused on raising awareness for the prevention, treatment, and advances made in various areas of bone and joint health including arthritis, back pain, and osteoporosis. Although physical activity may not be a new advance, it is an accessible means of both prevention and treatment that health providers can recommend to their patients for these bone and joint conditions

The beneficial effects of exercise on conditions of bone and joint health are well documented. According to the Mayo Clinic, “exercise is crucial for people with arthritis” due to its beneficial impacts on strength, flexibility, joint pain, and fatigue. In addition, aquatic exercise has been linked to improved quality of life in osteoarthritis sufferers.  Research has also demonstrated that exercise is effective in preventing low back pain, and can reduce pain in women with chronic low back pain. Group exercise classes show reduction in low back pain. Exercise improves bone health in children. Exercise also benefits bone health in women, who are at higher risk for osteoporosis and fractures as they age.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, the two types of exercise most important for building bone density – which can help prevent osteoporosis – are weight bearing and muscle strengthening exercises. Weight bearing exercise includes things like dancing, running, racquetball, and low impact aerobics, while muscle strengthening exercises include weight lifting and functional movements. The National Arthritis Foundation recommends similar types of exercises for people with osteoarthritis, including walking, strength and endurance exercise, and flexibility work.

Beautiful woman playing a match of squash


While some exercises can be done at home or individually, like walking or running and body weight strength movements, fitness centers can provide a wealth of options for people with bone and joint disease to find an activity that works for them. Some examples include:

  • Group exercise classes, which provide a social option for weight bearing exercise at high and low impact levels, such as dance or step aerobics
  • Aquatic aerobics classes, ideal for people experiencing too much pain to do weight bearing exercises, or who have balance issues
  • Yoga, which can help improve strength, balance, and flexibility
  • A variety of free and machine weights, providing an option for novices and exercise experts alike

Regardless of the location and activity, exercise is an important tool to help prevent and ease or delay symptoms of arthritis, back pain, and osteoporosis.

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