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Weight-Bearing Exercises for Seniors: Help Promote Bone Health

Written by Kevin Ryan
 about the author
4 minute readLast updated July 10, 2023

Regular exercise is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle as adults age, and weight-bearing exercises are an important component of building and maintaining strong, healthy bones. Studies have found that resistance exercises and certain aerobic exercises stimulate the building of bone tissue. These exercises can be done at home or in a gym using hand-held weights, weight machines, resistance bands, and even one’s own body weight.


Key Takeaways

  1. Weight-bearing exercises can help build and maintain strong, healthy bones. These exercises expose bones to resistance that can stimulate bone growth.
  2. Resistance exercises can fit into two categories. Weight training and body weight exercises can help improve strength and balance.
  3. Seniors with osteoporosis should consult with their doctor before starting an exercise program. Generally, they should avoid high-impact exercises and those that require quick, jolting movements.
  4. Diet is another way to help manage the symptoms of osteoporosis. A diet high in calcium and vitamin D may help seniors maintain healthy bones.

Types of weight-bearing exercise for seniors

Exercises to help maintain and enhance bone health are often referred to as resistance exercises and can typically fit in two categories:
  • Weight training exercises utilize external equipment, such as a dumbbell, resistance bands, gym machines, or even household objects like cans of soup from the pantry.
  • Body weight exercises use the weight of one’s own body to create resistance. Examples include pushups or squats. Certain aerobic exercises like running and dancing can also be effective ways to promote bone health without external weights or equipment.[01]

Five easy weight-training exercises for seniors

The following exercises can be done using hand-held weights, weight machines, or resistance bands. Some of these movements can be performed while standing or in a seated position.
  1. Bicep curls
  2. Squats
  3. Seated row
  4. Chest press/bench press
  5. Leg extensions
It is recommended that the exercises are done first with no weight or resistance to focus on proper technique. Then start light and add appropriate weights or resistance bands as strength improves.

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Five effective body weight exercises

The following body weight exercises focus on strengthening both the upper and lower body. They can be done in a gym setting, as part of a class, or at home.
  1. Pushups — can be done on the floor or against a wall
  2. Plank
  3. Sit to stand
  4. Step ups
  5. Standing marches
When doing these exercises for the first time or when recovering from an injury, it’s important to start slowly. Concentrate on maintaining good balance and perfecting technique.

Exercises for seniors with osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disease that leads to a decrease in bone strength, which can increase the risk of bone fractures. However, exercise can help reduce the threat of injury by strengthening muscles and improving balance.[02]
In addition to the strength building exercises listed above that support maintaining muscle mass, seniors with osteoporosis may benefit from activities and low-impact exercises that work to improve flexibility and balance, including:
  • Stretching
  • Yoga
  • Tai chi
  • Pilates

Exercises seniors with osteoporosis should avoid

Seniors who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis should consult with their doctor before starting any exercise routine. However, it’s typically recommended that the following types of activities and exercises are avoided.
  • Activities and exercises that include high-impact movements, such as jumping, running, or anything that involves quick, jolting motions
  • Movements that involve bending or twisting at the waist, such as situps, touching your toes, or sports like golf or tennis.[03]

The benefits of weight-bearing exercises for seniors

Research has shown that weight-bearing exercises can stimulate bone growth by exposing bones to weight that exceeds daily living activities.[01] More specifically, adults over 60 with osteoporosis showed an increase in bone mass density (BMD) when participating in weight-bearing exercises, according to a 2014 study.[04]
In addition, these types of exercise and activities improve strength and balance, which can help reduce the risks of falls — the most common cause of injuries in older adults.[05]
Regular exercise can also become part of maintaining general health and wellness for older adults. The best exercise routines incorporate a combination of cardio, muscle-strengthening, and balance exercises, which is recommended for adults over 65 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).[06]

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Other ways to improve senior bone health

Like weight-bearing exercises, a diet rich in vitamins can help contribute to healthy aging. Vitamin D plays a role in maintaining healthy bones. Vitamin D is made when the skin is exposed to sunlight. It can also be absorbed through some foods and supplements.[07]
Calcium, which is found in many foods and supplements, is another element important for bone health. It’s absorbed in the small intestines, aided by vitamin D.[08]
Intake recommendations vary, but research shows that regular sufficient intake of calcium and vitamin D may prevent bone loss and reduce the risk of fractures.[08] Be sure to consult with your parent’s doctor for diet and supplement recommendations that promote bone health.

Support for families exploring senior living and in-home care options

Many senior living communities offer programming and amenities, such as exercise classes, fitness rooms, and meal preparation aimed at serving the needs of aging adults. Senior Care Advisors can help you explore senior living options for a parent who might benefit from living in a community setting. Senior Care Advisors can also provide guidance on in-home care services for seniors who may need help with daily activities but prefer to age at home.


  1. Hong, A. R., & Kim, S. W. (2018, November 30). Effects of resistance exercise on bone health. Endocrinology and Metabolism.

  2. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. National Institutes of Health. (2022, December). Osteoporosis.

  3. Shanb, A. A., & Youssef, E. F. (2014, December). The impact of adding weight-bearing exercise versus nonweight bearing programs to the medical treatment of elderly patients with osteoporosis. Journal of Family and Community Medicine.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023, March 24). Keep on your feet—Preventing older adult falls.

  5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2018). Physical activity guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition.

  6. International Osteoporosis Foundation. Vitamin D.

    [8] Sunyecz, J. A. (2008, August 4).The use of calcium and vitamin D in the management of osteoporosis. Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management.

  7. Sunyecz, J. A. (2008, August 4).The use of calcium and vitamin D in the management of osteoporosis. Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management.

Meet the Author
Kevin Ryan

Kevin Ryan is a copywriter at OurParents. He has written about Medicaid and Medicare, and focuses on creating content for caregivers. Previously, Kevin worked as a freelance writer, a special education teacher, and a counselor for adults with developmental disabilities. He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Colorado Boulder.

Edited byKristin Carroll

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