Many exercises and lifestyle changes can build bone density in hips, either to prevent osteoporosis or improve health outcomes after a diagnosis. Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens the bones, making them more susceptible to injury, most commonly in the hips, spine, and wrists.
Before you begin any of these exercises for osteoporosis of the hip and spine, consult a doctor. It may be dangerous for someone with weakened bone density to do certain weight-bearing exercises.
Weight-Bearing Exercises for Osteoporosis
For those who are hoping to prevent bone density loss, short bursts of intense running were shown to be the most effective exercise for the women in a December 2017 study in the International Journal of Epidemiology. Running, however, may be too intense for anyone who is already experiencing bone density loss.
Read more: Yoga Poses to Avoid with Osteoporosis
For most people, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, bone density peaks in our 30s and then begins to decline, so early prevention is important — exercise "early and often," says this May 2018 literature review in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
Walking, climbing stairs and dancing are commonly recommended weight-bearing exercises for osteoporosis of the hip, though walking may only be sufficient to prevent further loss of bone density according to a literature review in Biomedical Research International in December 2018.
Luckily walking has all sorts of other proven health and fitness benefits! Other kinds of cardio that don't put weight on your feet and lower legs — like swimming and cycling — unfortunately will not build bone density.
Read more: Exercise Bike Vs. Walking
Tai Chi is a low-impact practice that has shown some positive results for improving bone density in the hips and lumbar spine. The 2018 review says best results come from a regular practice of 12 months or longer. Aerobic exercise is also important for your overall cardiovascular fitness.
Strength Training for Bone Density
Resistance exercises are those that use weights, bands or other accessories in order to build muscle mass and strength. A December 2018 paper in Endocrinology and Metabolism describes the mechanisms by which these exercises can also help improve bone density, if undertaken with care.
Harvard Health Publishing suggests that adults undertake two strength-training sessions a week, with at least two days off between for recovery. Start slowly, maintaining good posture, keeping your hips even and controlling your movements.
Aim to do eight to 15 repetitions of an exercise, followed by a short rest and a second set of the same movement. When you are able to reach the maximum number of reps in each set, add a third set or add hand weights to increase the difficulty of the movement.
For example, Harvard Health's workout for building hip strength includes:
- Chair stand: a simple sitting and standing exercise.
- Front lunge: one big step for your bones!
- Squat: with or without weights.
- Hip extension: standing reverse leg lifts.
- Side leg raise: You can also do these lying down.
- Hip flexion: lying-down knee-to-chest lifts.
- Back extension: on your way to doing Supermans!
Don't forget to stretch when you're done — this is a great time for some gentle hip-opening yoga.
Lifestyle Changes for Bone Density
Osteoporosis Canada suggests a diverse fitness regime that includes not just weight-bearing exercises and strength training, but also posture, balance and flexibility-focused fitness. Try a few yoga poses on for size.
For a full fitness program, talk to your doctor; then visit a trainer offering safe endurance, strength, flexibility and balance exercises for aging adults.
- National Institute on Aging: Go4Life: "Exercising With Chronic Conditions"
- International Journal of Epidemiology: "A Small Amount of Precisely Measured High-Intensity Habitual Physical Activity Predicts Bone Health in Pre- and Post-Menopausal Women in UK Biobank"
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: "Exercises for Your Bone Health"
- International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health: "Exercise Early and Often: Effects of Physical Activity and Exercise on Women’s Bone Health"
- Biomedical Research International: "The Effectiveness of Physical Exercise on Bone Density in Osteoporotic Patients"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Exercise Sampler: Building Hip Strength"
- Endocrinology and Metabolism: "Effects of Resistance Exercise on Bone Health"
- Fullerton Health Promotion Research Institute: "Osteoporosis Canada"
- Hospital for Special Surgery: "Exercise for Building Better Bones"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Yoga: Another Way to Prevent Osteoporosis?"
- National Institute on Aging: Go4Life: "Exercises"
- Go4Life from the National Institute on Aging from NIH