Weightlifting makes your bones stronger and denser, reducing your risk of fractures.

Osteoporosis is a condition in which your bones become weak and brittle. This increases your risk of fractures, chronic pain, and decreased mobility.

Though weightlifting might seem like it’s the last thing you should do in this situation, it’s actually quite helpful. Resistance training can strengthen your bones and decrease your risk of fractures.

Resistance training (aka strength training or weightlifting) can help reduce your risk of osteoporosis by increasing bone density. The term “bone density” refers to the amount of minerals in your bones relative to how much space it takes up (its volume), according to the National Cancer Institute.

When your bones are subjected to the stress of weightlifting, your body breaks down old bone tissue and stimulates the production of new tissue. This makes your bones stronger and denser.

This process is called bone remodeling. It’s the body’s way of maintaining healthy bones and reducing the risk of fractures and other bone-related injuries.

Resistance training can also improve coordination and balance, which can help lower the risk of falling, particularly in older adults.

Resistance training should be done alongside other bone-strengthening activities, including those that improve balance and flexibility.

A wellness program for osteoporosis should include four types of exercises:

  • Muscle-strengthening exercises: These exercises include the use of weights or your body’s own resistance to work against gravity. Examples include lifting free weights, using a weight machine, and working with resistance bands.
  • Weight-bearing exercises: These exercises require you to support your body weight. Examples include walking, running, and dancing. The greater the impact, the more bone-strengthening the exercise.
  • Balance exercises: Balance exercises, such as yoga and tai chi, help improve stability and reduce your risk of falling.
  • Flexibility exercises: Flexibility exercises, such as yoga and stretching, help keep your muscles and joints limber and agile. This makes it easier to perform daily activities and reduces the risk of falls and fractures.

Research suggests that high intensity resistance programs (lifting heavier weights) may be more effective for improving bone density than low intensity exercise programs.

In a 2017 study, 101 postmenopausal women (ages 65 and over) with low to very low bone mass randomly participated either in a high intensity resistance and impact training program (8 months, twice weekly, 30-minute supervised sessions) or a home-based, low intensity exercise program.

The findings revealed that the high intensity program was much more effective in improving bone strength and functional performance. Of all the people in the study, only one adverse event was reported (minor lower back spasm).

Due to the risk of injury, it’s important that you’re supervised by a professional, particularly when you first get started on a resistance training program.

Osteoporosis can cause your bones to become weak and brittle, increasing your risk of fractures, reduced mobility, and chronic pain.

Here are some of the most common consequences of osteoporosis:

  • Fractures: Fractures caused by osteoporosis can occur in any bone but most commonly happen in the spine, hips, and wrists. These fractures can result in severe pain, loss of mobility, or even death in some cases.
  • Decreased mobility: Fractures, particularly those in the spine and hip, take a long time to heal and can significantly reduce mobility and independence. A constant fear of falling can also cause you to avoid many activities, further decreasing your mobility.
  • Chronic pain: There are several ways that osteoporosis can cause pain. Fractures that don’t heal properly can cause long-term pain that significantly reduces your quality of life. Osteoporosis can cause your bones to become thin and porous, which can change how they support your body. These changes often lead to pain and discomfort. Osteoporosis can also lead to osteonecrosis, a painful condition in which the bone tissue dies due to a lack of blood flow.
  • Height loss: Osteoporosis can lead to a loss of height due to spine fractures, or vertebral fractures. When these fractures occur, the bone may collapse or change shape, which can cause the spine to become shorter.
  • Increased risk of death: Osteoporotic fractures, particularly those that occur in the hip, can lead to severe complications and increase the risk of death, particularly in older adults. Falls can also have a risk of death for older adults.

Are women more likely to develop osteoporosis?

Experts suggest that osteoporosis is most common in white women and Asian women, though it affects men and women of all races and ethnic groups.

And while it can occur at any age, a person’s risk of developing the condition significantly increases with age. It typically starts developing in the years just before menopause.

You can take several steps to prevent or slow osteoporosis by:

  • engaging in strength training and weight-bearing exercises
  • eating a nutritious diet rich in calcium and vitamin D to help maintain good bone health
  • taking calcium and vitamin D supplements if necessary
  • taking any medications prescribed by a doctor for osteoporosis, which can help prevent fractures
  • not drinking alcohol or drinking only in moderation
  • not smoking

Resistance training is very beneficial for preventing or slowing the development of osteoporosis, as it can improve bone strength and density.

If you’re interested in resistance training, be sure to discuss it with your doctor or physical therapist to ensure it’s a safe and appropriate choice for you. A personal trainer can help tailor a program to your individual needs and supervise you as you’re getting started.