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The importance of Exercise for bone health – preventing osteoarthritis and osteoporosis

7th May 2021

In Ben’s third and final information video, he talks about the importance of exercise for bone health with a specific focus around Osteoarthritis and Osteoporosis. He explores how much to exercise, the benefits and how best to adapt exercises for your condition.

Ben Steele-Turner is a Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist and Associate Nutritionist in Surrey, United Kingdom. What are the benefits of exercise for OA?

Is exercise important if I have osteoarthritis (OA) or osteoporosis?

Yes, exercise is incredibly important to all of us at all stages of life. Regardless of Osteoarthritis (OA) or Osteoporosis, exercise is something we have to fit into our daily life and habits. We need to adopt the mindset of what can I do, not what can’t I do. You need to find an exercise plan that is right for you.

Should I keep exercising if it causes me pain?

This is where it is helpful to work with a physiotherapist to adapt exercises and try new exercises, specific for your medical needs. We need to be thinking about exercises, not just for OA or Osteoporosis but for all forms of health. Working with someone to tailor make an exercise plan to fit you is a great option for you.

To find a physiotherapist near you, click here - https://www.csp.org.uk/public-patient/find-physiotherapist/find-physio

What are the benefits of exercise for OA?

With OA we need to focus on aiding weight loss. According to Arthritis Foundation, “Exercise is considered the most effective, non-drug treatment for reducing pain and improving movement in patients with osteoarthritis”.

Visit HealthCentral for 9 Knee-strengthening Moves for Osteoarthritis .

Some good examples of exercises and their benefits are:

  • Range of motion or flexibility exercises - gentle stretching and movements that take joints through their full span. Doing these regularly can help maintain and improve flexibility in the joints.
  • Aerobic/endurance exercise – walking, jogging or cycling are help control weight by increasing the number of calories the body uses.
  • Strengthening exercises - strong muscles can support and protect the joint affected with OA.
  • Walking – has many benefits. It improves circulation – lowers blood pressure and strengthens the heart. It also reduces the risk of fractures (due to increasing bone density) and tones muscles that support joints.
  • Aquatic Exercises – helps relieve the pressure of body weight on the affected joints providing resistance for muscles to strengthen.

(Source: Benefits of Exercise for OA - Arthritis Foundation )

What are the best types of exercise for OA?

There will be a different answer to this question for each individual body. For weight loss (if this will be beneficial to your situation or a medical professional has advised you to) the priority will be strengthening the muscles around the affected joint. Resistance exercises, progressively loading or cardiovascular exercise.

What are the benefits of exercise for bone density?

For Osteoporosis we need to stimulate the bone to stay as dense as possible. The bone will adapt to stimulus, if we put weight through the bone using load/weight-bearing exercises, the bone knows it needs to get stronger. The good nutrients from our diet rebuild the bone and aid it in becoming stronger, denser and be less susceptible to osteoporotic fractures.

Load-bearing exercises – brisk walk, jogging, hopping. You can increase the difficulty of these by adding some weight for resistance training.

Whether for OA or Osteoporosis, you have to enjoy it! You could exercise by yourself, or where possible joining a club or virtual class, something to keep you on track and regularly exercising.

A physiotherapist would be great for designing an individual exercise plan for you.

How much exercise should I do?

We don’t know a specific amount of exercise for Osteoarthritis or Osteoporosis. The UK guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week (e.g. 5x30 minute workouts) or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week. This is just a benchmark; we should aim to go above and beyond that amount. This will help with general health not just OA or Osteoporosis.

You can also achieve your weekly activity target with:

  • several short sessions of very vigorous intensity activity
  • a mix of moderate, vigorous and very vigorous intensity activity


Can I adapt exercises if I have other issues or injuries?

Yes, each individual is different and can have different injuries to consider when exercising. Use the mentality of what can I do? Make sure the type and intensity of your exercise is appropriate for your level of fitness.

A physiotherapist can give tailored advice to suit you and your lifestyle, or work around any issues you have. We want to stimulate the muscles to keep the joint mobile, and regularly put load through the bone to keep them as dense and strong as possible.

Can I just exercise more if my diet is not very good?

You cannot exercise more to substitute a bad diet; the two work in harmony. You need to be doing plenty of exercise you enjoy, with plenty of the right fuel nutrients to rebuild bone density and to be as strong as you can.

We hope this has inspired you to consider exercising and the impact it can have on your bone health. Or to seek guidance from a medical professional to improve your current exercise routine, maybe with a specific focus on improving bone density or reducing symptoms of OA.

To find a physiotherapist near you, click here - https://www.csp.org.uk/public-patient/find-physiotherapist/find-physio

To view the full video please follow this link:


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