I have recently been diagnosed with osteoporosis. My doctor told me that exercise can help but I am not sure what kind of exercise is best or how to get started. My doctor mentioned a walking program. Any suggestions?


Two types of exercise help build and maintain bone density: weight-bearing exercise and resistance exercise. Weight-bearing exercise includes exercise where the bones and muscles are working against gravity, such as walking, dancing, low impact aerobics, etc. These exercises should be performed 3 times per week or more. For most people with osteoporosis, brisk walking is ideal. If you have not been doing a regular walking program, it would be best to start with a 5 minute walk and increase the length of your walk by 1 minute every other time. The usual recommendation is to increase the duration to at least 15-20 minutes but not more than 60 minutes. If you are trying to pursue a brisk walking program but you are encountering problems with pain in your back, hips, knees or feet, then consider consulting with a physical therapist to help address these issues. Also, if you have been sedentary for a while and have heart, lung or other medical condition consider checking with your doctor about a safe level of activity.

Resistance exercise is also recommended and includes free weights, resistance bands and weight machines. It is best to start with light, easy weights and progress gradually. The appropriate amount of resistance causes fatigue at 10-15 repetitions. Usually you would perform 2-3 sets (about 20-30 total repetitions). Do not increase the weight by more than 10% in a week. Resistance exercise is typically performed 2-3 times per week (ideally every 3rd day). If you are a member of a gym, consider consulting with a fitness instructor.

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