When you have osteoporosis, exercise can be an important component of strengthening your bones as well as reducing your risks for falls through balance exercise. But before you begin any exercise program, it’s important to get your doctor’s approval first. Your doctor will be able to help point you to what exercises are best for you depending on your condition, your age, and other physical constraints.

Exercises that build healthy bones

While most types of exercise are good for you, not all types are good for healthy bones. For example, weight-bearing exercises can build healthy bone. These exercises involve challenging your muscle strength against gravity and putting pressure on your bones. As a result, your bones will signal your body to produce added tissue to build stronger bones. Exercises such as walking or swimming may be beneficial to your lung and heart health but won’t necessarily help you strengthen your bones.

Anyone with osteoporosis who’s looking to increase their bone strength can benefit from the following eight exercises. These exercises are easy to do at home.

1. Foot stomps

The goal for exercise to reduce osteoporosis is to challenge the key areas of your body that osteoporosis most commonly affects, such as your hips. One way to challenge your hip bones is through foot stomps.

  • While standing, stomp your foot, imagining you are crushing an imaginary can underneath it.
  • Repeat four times on one foot, then repeat the exercise on the other foot.
  • Hold on to a railing or sturdy piece of furniture if you have difficulty maintaining your balance.

2. Bicep curls

You can perform bicep curls with either dumbbells weighing between 1 to 5 pounds or a resistance band. They can be performed seated or standing, depending on what you’re most comfortable with.

  • Take a dumbbell in each hand. Or step on a resistance band while holding an end in each hand.
  • Pull the bands or weights in toward your chest, watching the bicep muscles on the fronts of your upper arms contract.
  • Lower your arms to return to your starting position.
  • Repeat eight to 12 times. Rest and repeat for a second set, if possible.

3. Shoulder lifts

You’ll also need weights or a resistance band to perform shoulder lifts. You can do this exercise from either a standing or seated position.

  • Take a dumbbell in each hand. Or step on a resistance band while holding an end in each hand.
  • Start with your arms down and hands at your sides.
  • Slowly raise your arms out straight in front of you, but don’t lock your elbow.
  • Lift to a comfortable height, but no higher than shoulder level.
  • Repeat eight to 12 times. Rest and repeat for a second set, if possible.

4. Hamstring curls

Hamstring curls strengthen the muscles in the backs of your upper legs. You perform this exercise from a standing position. If necessary, place your hands on a piece of heavy furniture or other sturdy item to improve your balance.

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Slightly move back your left foot until only your toes are touching the floor.
  • Contract the muscles in the back of your left leg to lift your left heel toward your buttocks.
  • Slowly control your left foot as you lower it back to its starting position.
  • Repeat the exercise between eight and 12 times. Rest, and repeat the exercise on your right leg.

5. Hip leg lifts

This exercise strengthens the muscles around your hips as well as enhances your balance. Place your hands on a piece of heavy furniture or other sturdy item to improve your balance as needed.

  • Start with your feet hip-width apart. Shift your weight to your left foot.
  • Flex your right foot and keep your right leg straight as you lift it to the side, no more than 6 inches off the ground.
  • Lower your right leg.
  • Repeat the leg lift eight to 12 times. Return to your starting position and do another set using your left leg.

6. Squats

Squats can strengthen the front of your legs as well as your buttocks. You don’t have to squat deeply for this exercise to be effective.

  • Start with your feet hip-width apart. Rest your hands lightly on a sturdy piece of furniture or counter for balance.
  • Bend at your knees to slowly squat down. Keep your back straight and lean slightly forward, feeling your legs working.
  • Squat only until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
  • Tighten your buttocks to return to a standing position.
  • Repeat this exercise eight to 12 times.

7. Ball sit

This exercise can promote balance and strengthen your abdominal muscles. It should be performed with a large exercise ball. You should also have someone with you to act as a “spotter” to help you maintain your balance.

  • Sit on the exercise ball with your feet flat on the floor.
  • Keep your back as straight as possible while you maintain your balance.
  • If you are able, hold your arms out at your sides, palms facing forward.
  • Hold the position as long as one minute, if possible. Stand and rest. Repeat the exercise up to two more times.

8. Standing on one leg

This exercise promotes greater balance.

  • With a sturdy piece of furniture nearby if you need to grab onto something, stand on one foot for one minute, if possible.
  • Repeat the balance exercise on your other leg.

Exercises to avoid

As important as it is to know what exercises can help you, it’s just as important to know which you shouldn’t do. Some activities, like hiking, jumping rope, climbing, and running, simply put too much demand on your bones and increase the risk of fractures. Known as high-impact exercises, they can place too great a strain on your spine and hips as well as increase your risk for falls. They’re best avoided unless you’ve participated in them for some time.

Exercises that involve bending forward or rotating the trunk of your body, such as situps and playing golf, also increase your risk for osteoporosis fractures.