These moves can be done anytime, anywhere—no equipment required.
When planning out an exercise routine, most people would agree that it’s best to choose moves that give you most bang for your workout buck. It’s all about working better, not harder, right? For some, that might mean working in some burpees or fitting in a quick, 20-minute HIIT sesh. But if you have osteoporosis, a condition where the body loses too much or makes too little bone tissue, your routine may look a little different.
Contrary to what some may believe, exercise is an essential element for treating and preventing osteoporosis. Even though exercise with osteoporosis only modestly affects your bone mineral density, it has a huge effect on strength, flexibility, and balance—all of which keep you upright and sturdy. This can help prevent falls and potentially life-threatening fractures.
Not all exercises, however, are safe or recommended for people with osteoporosis. “Some exercises that are not safe for osteoporosis increase the risk of falls and fractures,” says Joan Pagano, exercise physiologist in New York City. “It’s very important that you know how to modify exercises to make them safe for osteoporosis.” Learn more about off-limit exercises for people with osteoporosis.
So if you’re someone with osteoporosis, which moves are recommended?
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, there are two types of exercise that build and maintain strength and bone density: weight-bearing exercises—activities where you move against gravity, such as dancing, hiking, or stair climbing—and muscle-strengthening exercises—when you use your body or a weight as resistance against gravity.
Key Bodyweight Exercises for Osteoporosis
According to Pagano, there are four exercises that specifically target—and strengthen—areas that are vulnerable to fractures if you have osteoporosis.
“The ‘4 for life’ exercises together comprise a mini workout that you can do anytime, anyplace—no equipment required,” says Pagano. These are the “4 for life” exercises:
“If I were to give you one exercise for life, it is the squat,” says Pagano. “It is the most functional move, the one that we need to get up from a seated position, and it serves us throughout life.” That’s because the squat works three major muscles of the lower body: the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings.
If the classic move is difficult for you, there are many ways to do a squat. Here are three squat modifications that are effective for every body: the wall squat, the sit-to-stand squat, and the stand-to-sit squat.
Push-ups are one of the “4 for life” exercises because they target the three main muscle groups of the upper body: the chest, front of the shoulders, and triceps.
As timeless as the push-up is, let’s face it, performing one is not as easy as it looks. “If you don’t like traditional push-ups there are a [few] modifications you can do that will make them more manageable for you,” says Pagano. Here are three push-up variations that are effective for every body: the wall push-up, the kitchen counter (diagonal) push-up, and the half push-up.
3. Back extensions
The back extension is one of the “4 for life” exercises because it stimulates the muscles that run along the length of the spine. “Where spinal flexion is not advisable [for osteoporosis], a spinal extension, where you’re doing a mild back bend or arching your back, is a very good exercise for osteoporosis,” says Pagano.
There are many ways to do a back extension. If you have osteoporosis, Pagano recommends:
The supported back extension, where you’re standing, bending your back slightly with your hands in a fist at the base of your back.
The prone back extension, where you’re lying face-down on the floor, arms bent with forearms on the floor, and you lift your head and upper back slightly off the floor.
The prone back extension with arms. This is the same as the prone back extension, except you lift your arms up along with your upper body lift.
Planks are one of the “4 for life” moves because they engage your core. “[Planks] engage the core without rounding the back,” says Pagano. “They’re a great exercise for strengthening the abdominals and the spinal muscles at the same time.”
If the classic plank is too tough for you, here are three ways to modify a plank: the wall forearm plank, the half forearm plank, and the full forearm plank.
“It’s encouraging to have so many variations of exercise available to us,” says Pagano. “So no matter what level of bone density you have, you have choices.”
00:00:00,000 --> 00:00:03,196
00:00:03,196 --> 00:00:07,616
The 4 for Life Exercises all
together comprise a mini workout
00:00:07,616 --> 00:00:12,040
that you can do any time,
any place, no equipment required.
00:00:13,310 --> 00:00:20,954
00:00:20,954 --> 00:00:24,692
The 4 for Life Exercises are the squat,
the push up,
00:00:24,692 --> 00:00:27,420
the back extension, and the plank.
00:00:27,420 --> 00:00:31,860
These four exercises are every good for
strengthening the sites that
00:00:31,860 --> 00:00:35,750
are vulnerable to fracture
if you have osteoporosis.
00:00:35,750 --> 00:00:38,870
If I were to give you one exercise for
life, it would be the squat.
00:00:38,870 --> 00:00:40,990
It is the most functional move.
00:00:40,990 --> 00:00:43,510
It works three muscles of the lower body.
00:00:43,510 --> 00:00:47,330
The large muscles of the glutes,
the quads, and the hamstrings.
00:00:47,330 --> 00:00:48,430
When it comes to the squat,
00:00:48,430 --> 00:00:50,760
there are three different
variations that you can do.
00:00:50,760 --> 00:00:56,858
There's a wall squat,
a sit-to-stand squat,
00:00:56,858 --> 00:01:00,493
and a stand-to-sit squat.
00:01:00,493 --> 00:01:02,251
Push-ups are one of the 4 for
00:01:02,251 --> 00:01:06,963
Life Exercises because they target three
main muscle groups of the upper body,
00:01:06,963 --> 00:01:11,630
the chest, the front of the shoulders,
and the back of the arm, the triceps.
00:01:11,630 --> 00:01:15,699
If you don't like traditional push-ups,
there are a couple of modifications that
00:01:15,699 --> 00:01:18,334
you can do that will make
them more manageable for you.
00:01:18,334 --> 00:01:24,464
The wall push-up, a diagonal push-up,
where you're using the counter
00:01:24,464 --> 00:01:28,430
to brace your hands, and the half
push-up which you can do on the floor.
00:01:28,430 --> 00:01:31,200
The back extension is one of the 4 for
00:01:31,200 --> 00:01:35,720
because it stimulates the muscles that
run along the length of the spine.
00:01:35,720 --> 00:01:40,680
And where as spinal flexion is
not advisable, spinal extension,
00:01:40,680 --> 00:01:42,470
where you're doing a mild back bend or
00:01:42,470 --> 00:01:47,340
arching your back,
is a very good exercise for osteoporosis.
00:01:47,340 --> 00:01:51,220
The gentlest back extension is
the supported back extension.
00:01:51,220 --> 00:01:54,310
Another variation is
a prone back extension and
00:01:54,310 --> 00:01:57,900
a prone back extension
adding a lift of the arms.
00:01:57,900 --> 00:02:02,330
The plank is one of the 4 for Life
moves because it's a great exercise for
00:02:02,330 --> 00:02:03,120
00:02:03,120 --> 00:02:08,250
It engages the core without rounding
the back and is a great exercise for
00:02:08,250 --> 00:02:12,660
strengthening the abdominals and
the spinal muscles at the same time.
00:02:12,660 --> 00:02:16,430
There are a few variations of the plank
that you can do based on your ability.
00:02:16,430 --> 00:02:19,730
The first variation is
a forearm wall plank,
00:02:19,730 --> 00:02:24,900
a half forearm plank and
a full forearm plank.
00:02:24,900 --> 00:02:29,655
It's encouraging to have so many
variations of exercise available to us so
00:02:29,655 --> 00:02:34,113
that no matter what level of bone
density you have, you have choices.
00:02:34,113 --> 00:02:38,142
Osteoporosis exercise for strong bones. Arlington, VA: National Osteoporosis Foundation. (Accessed on January 1, 2022 at https://www.nof.org/patients/fracturesfall-prevention/exercisesafe-movement/osteoporosis-exercise-for-strong-bones)Invest in your bones. International Osteoporosis Foundation. (Accessed on January 1, 2022 at https://www.osteoporosis.foundation/patients/prevention/exercise)