Weight Bearing Exercises for Osteopenia: Benefits and Alternatives

Standing yoga poses are a low-impact weight bearing exercise to strengthen bones and decrease risk of osteoporosis.

Getting a diagnosis for osteopenia may feel overwhelming. Strong bones are the foundation of a healthy body, but once your bones have weakened, you may feel anxiety about whether or not you’ll still be able to maintain a healthy lifestyle. People with osteopenia or osteoporosis often have many questions, like:

  • Will you still be able to do activities and hobbies you love?
  • Can you still exercise?
  • Is it safe to hike, garden, do yoga, bicycle, or other active past times?
  • How can you protect yourself while you exercise?
  • What can you do to prevent further bone loss?

In early stages of osteopenia, your risk of breaking a bone is still fairly low. Your doctor’s main advice will be to alter diet habits and include specific weight-bearing exercises to protect your bones from further weakening. By caring for your bones, you can continue to live an active lifestyle and prevent full-blown osteoporosis.

Weight Bearing Exercises for Osteopenia

One of the most common treatments for osteopenia is to do a series of weight-bearing exercises. These special exercises are one of the best ways to protect and strengthen your bones!

What is a weight bearing exercise?

Weight bearing exercises are activities you do while standing, which forces your bones and muscles to work against gravity and bear your weight. This naturally places stress on your bones, which, like muscles, respond to exercise by becoming stronger! These exercises can help increase bone mineral density, warding off osteoporosis.

High-Impact Weight Bearing Exercises

There are many types of exercises to strengthen bones, including high-impact and low-impact weight bearing, resistance, strength training, posture, and more. Here are some examples of high-impact weight bearing exercises to help fight osteoporosis.

  • Hiking
  • Running
  • Taking a dance class
  • Gardening
  • Mowing the lawn
  • Aerobics
  • Sports (basketball, soccer, baseball, tennis
  • Climbing stairs

Benefits: High-impact weight bearing exercises often build strong bones, while also burning calories and increasing heart-health through aerobics.

Cons: Unfortunately, high-impact exercise isn’t right for everyone. If you have heart issues, or if your osteopenia is advanced, these more intensive activities could cause health risks — or even increase your risk of breaking a bone.

Low-Impact Weight Bearing Exercises

If a high-impact workout isn’t a good fit for your current health, you can certainly work your way up to more intense exercises by starting with low-impact weight bearing exercises. These include:

  • Yoga (standing poses)
  • Pilates
  • Low-impact aerobics
  • Ellipticals
  • Walking on a treadmill
  • Walking around the neighborhood
  • Tai-chi

Benefits: Low-impact weight bearing exercises still strengthen your bones, helping prevent osteoporosis. They are also good for your breathing, can ease stress and anxiety, and help keep your body limber and flexible. Plus, they do still burn calories and increase heart health — just not as much as a more intense workout!

Cons: Low-impact exercise may not yield results as quickly as high-impact. It’s important to exercise at least 30-minutes a day.

What If You Can’t Do Weight-Bearing Exercises?

Another con for both high and low-impact weight bearing exercises is that people with limited mobility, joint pain, chronic pain, or brittle bones may not be able to withstand any level of weight bearing exercise.

Fortunately, there are other exercises and dietary changes that can help strengthen bones. Non-weight bearing exercises can include things like:

  • Strength training
  • Weight lifting
  • Swimming
  • Seated yoga
  • Resistance bands
  • Range of motion stretches

Building muscles strength and flexibility is an important part of strengthening and protecting bones. Plus, these gentle exercises are a good way to build up to weight bearing exercises.

You can also eat foods to get enough calcium and vitamin D, such as:

  • Cheese
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Salmon
  • Spinach

Be sure to add vitamin C to your diet, as vitamin C helps your body absorb calcium.

Osteoporosis is not Inevitable — Let OsteoStrong Help!

A diagnosis for osteopenia isn’t a guarantee of osteoporosis, nor is it the end of all your favorite activities. By adding calcium and other bone-strengthening vitamins to your diet and incorporating weight bearing exercises, you can help keep your bones strong.

OsteoStrong offers ten-minute sessions to strengthen your bones and prevent osteoporosis. In just ten minutes a week, you can increase stamina, strengthen muscles, straighten posture, and protect your bones for years to come. Sign up for a free session — you have nothing to lose, and your bones have everything to gain!