Exercises for strong bones

Best exercises for building and maintaining strong bones for all age groups.

Find out the best exercises for building and maintaining strong bones for your age, level of fitness and bone strength.

All forms of physical activity will help keep your bones fit for purpose and reduce the risk of falling.

Check out the government's physical activity recommendations for early childhood, young people, adults and older adults.

Physical activity is only one of the building blocks for healthy bones – the others being a healthy, balanced diet and avoiding certain risk factors.

Children and young adults

Childhood, adolescence and early adulthood up to the mid-20s, when the skeleton is growing, are the time for building strong bones.

Young people aged 5 to 18 are advised to do vigorous-intensity activities that strengthen muscles and bones on at least 3 days a week.

Examples of muscle and bone-strengthening activities include:

Under 5s not walking

  • tummy time
  • active play
  • crawling

Under 5s walking unaided

  • climbing
  • walking
  • jumping
  • running games

Children and young adults

Adults aged 35 and over

To reduce the rate of natural bone loss that occurs from the age of 35 onwards, aim to do muscle-strengthening activities at least 2 days a week.

Examples of other suitable activities for adults include:

  • brisk walking, including Nordic walking
  • moderate-resistance weightlifting
  • stair climbing
  • carrying or moving heavy loads like groceries
  • exercising with resistance bands
  • heavy gardening, such as digging and shovelling
  • cross-training machines

Try Strength and Flex, a 5-week exercise plan for beginners, to improve your strength and flexibility.

People with osteoporosis

If you have osteoporosis or fragile bones, regular physical activity can help keep your bones strong and reduce the risk of a fracture in the future.

Depending on your risk of fracture, you may need to avoid some types of high-impact exercises.

But if you're otherwise fit and healthy and already enjoy regular exercise, you should be able to continue.

Check out the exercise resources on the National Osteoporosis Society website.

Speak to your GP and ask if there's an exercise referral scheme in your area that caters for people with osteoporosis.

People at high risk of fracture 

If you're at high risk of having a fracture or have broken bones already, staying active will help reduce your risk of falls and fractures, improve balance, strength and stamina, and reduce pain.

You may be fearful of falling, but if you stop moving, you'll slowly lose strength and balance, which will make you more prone to falls and fracture.

Avoid high-impact exercises that involve jumping and running, and activities that involve bending forwards and twisting at the waist, such as touching your toes, sit-ups, golf, tennis, bowling, and some yoga poses.

Recommended exercises to reduce your risk of falls involve a combination of strength, balance and endurance training:

  • strength training exercises using your body weight
  • flexibility exercises
  • tai chi
  • walking
  • low-impact dancing
  • low-impact aerobics
  • stair climbing
  • cross-training machines

Try these gentle exercise routines:

Contact the National Osteoporosis Society for advice about the type of exercise most appropriate to your circumstances.

Ask your GP about falls prevention services you can be referred to.

For more fall prevention tips, download Get Up and Go: A Guide to Staying Steady (PDF, 2.65Mb).

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