What is the effect of diet and exercise on osteoporosis?

May 5, 2016

What is the effect of diet and exercise on osteoporosis?

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Over 44 million people aged 50 and over in the United States are suffering from osteoporosis. The best thing you can do to prevent osteoporosis is lead a bone-healthy lifestyle that includes getting enough calcium, vitamin d, and exercising regularly. Certain foods can help or harm your bone health, and if you have or are at risk of osteoporosis, it is important for you to know which foods to eat more or less of to avoid bone breaks and fractures.

Foods that help

Obvious dairy products are rich in calcium, and with some also fortified with vitamin D, these are great choices to promote healthy bone growth. There are many other foods that are good for maintaining healthy bones.


Canned fish like sardines and salmon with the bones are rich in calcium, which is important for healthy strong bones. Fatter varieties of fish like mackerel and tuna contain vitamin D, which is necessary to help your body absorb calcium and phosphorus.

Fruits and vegetables

Greens like spinach, kale, collard greens, and mustard greens are great sources of both calcium and vitamin K. Vitamin K works with vitamin D to help with new bone cell generation. Other greens with calcium include turnip greens, okra, dandelion greens, and broccoli.

Red and green peppers, oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, and pineapples are a great source of vitamin C, which is beneficial to help heal bone fractures. Diets high in potassium have been linked to good bone health.  Fruits and veggies containing potassium include raisins, potatoes, tomato products, sweet potatoes, bananas, and prunes.

Foods that harm

There are some foods that you should avoid if you are at high risk of osteoporosis, as they can contribute to bone thinning, or calcium loss.


While there has not been definitive evidence that salt has an impact on osteoporosis, there does exist a relationship between high-sodium intake and bone loss, especially for people with hypertension, or high blood pressure. Salt increases the amount of calcium excreted in urine and sweat. If someone is already calcium deficient, high amounts of salt can make it worse and lead to bone loss.


There are many reasons why you should limit your soda intake, but with colas, whether decaf, diet or caffeinated, a study in 2006 links them to bone thinning. This may be because colas contain phosphorus, which needs to be balanced with calcium intake or can increase the risk of bone thinning.


Try and limit your caffeine intake daily if you are at risk of osteoporosis. Caffeine can interfere with calcium absorption, which can then lead to bone loss.


Up to two glasses a day may actually help to prevent fractures, but if you are consuming alcohol in excess daily, it can inhibit calcium absorption and reduce hormone levels that are critical to bone production.


Smoking poses many risks, but for people with osteoporosis, quitting smoking is a way you can increase your bone health. Tobacco impedes the healing of fractures and interferes with the body’s ability to produce bone.

Exercising to build bone strength

Whether you are at risk for a condition or have a clean bill of health, exercise is important as part of your overall wellness. Not only does exercising make you feel better, it helps strengthen your bones. Your bones are living tissues much like your muscles. Weight-bearing exercises, or exercises that require you to support your own body weight with feet, legs, hand or arms, help strengthen your bones.

One particular weight-bearing exercise that is extremely beneficial is a walking lunge. Without any additional weights, it helps to build bone density in your hips. Other examples of weight-bearing exercises that you should work in are running, jumping, stair climbing and lifting weights.

Before starting any type of exercise regimen, seek your doctor’s advice so you can do what your body can handle. According to the National Osteoporosis Society, adults should be doing some type of aerobic physical activity for 30 minutes at least 5 days of the week. They should also do some muscle strengthening exercises at least 2 days a week.

For older adults (aged 65 years or older) who are also at a higher risk for falls, it is important to include exercises that work to improve balance and coordination at least 2 days a week.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How does osteoporosis play a role in hip injuries?

Osteoporosis is a decrease in bone density and this means your bones, including your hips, can become extra fragile. Those with osteoporosis have a higher chance of injuries resulting in broken bones. Those with osteoporosis can break or fracture bones just by sneezing in some severe cases. If you are at risk of developing osteoporosis, contact your doctor to discuss which treatment options might be most appropriate for you. 

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If my mother has been diagnosed with osteoporosis, is she still able to participate in physical activities or exercise?

Your mother and her doctor should discuss what physical activities she can participate in. It will likely be recommended that she should avoid high-impact sports and activities that twist the spine or require individuals to bend forward at the waist. Common exercises for people with osteoporosis include swimming, yoga, strength training, tai chi, and other endurance types of activities. In addition to regular exercise, diet is also quite important and can help one's bones to remain strong. 

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