Prevention

Your genes affect your height and the strength of your skeleton, but lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise influence how healthy your bones are.

Regular exercise

Weight-bearing exercise

Regular exercise is essential. Adults aged 19 to 64 should do at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as cycling or fast walking, every week.

Weight-bearing exercise and resistance exercise are particularly important for improving bone density and helping to prevent osteoporosis.

As well as aerobic exercise, adults aged 19 to 64 should also do muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week by working all the major muscle groups, including the legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, arms and shoulders.

If you've been diagnosed with osteoporosis, it's a good idea to talk to your GP or health specialist before starting a new exercise programme to make sure it's right for you.

Find out more about:

Weight-bearing exercise is exercise where your feet and legs support your weight.

High-impact weight-bearing exercise, such as running, skipping, dancing, aerobics, and even jumping up and down on the spot, are all useful ways to strengthen your muscles, ligaments and joints.

When exercising, wear footwear that provides your ankles and feet with adequate support, such as trainers or walking boots.

People over the age of 60 can also benefit from regular weight-bearing exercise. This can include brisk walking, keep-fit classes or a game of tennis. Swimming and cycling are not weight-bearing exercise, however.

Resistance exercise

Resistance exercise uses muscle strength, where the action of the tendons pulling on the bones boosts bone strength. Examples include press-ups, weightlifting or using weight equipment at a gym.

If you've recently joined a gym or have not been for a while, your gym will probably offer you an induction. This involves being shown how to use the equipment and having exercise techniques recommended to you.

Always ask an instructor for help if you're not sure how to use a piece of gym equipment or how to do a particular exercise.

Read more about exercise and physical activity for osteoporosis and bone health from the Royal Osteoporosis Society

Healthy eating and vitamin D supplements

Eating a healthy, balanced diet is recommended for everyone. It can help prevent many serious health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and many forms of cancer, as well as osteoporosis.

Calcium is important for maintaining bone health. Adults need 700mg a day, which you should be able to get from your daily diet.

Calcium-rich foods include:

Vitamin D is important for healthy bones and teeth because it helps your body absorb calcium. All adults should consume 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day.

Good dietary sources of vitamin D include:

However, it can be difficult to get enough vitamin D from foods alone. So, consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D.

Stop smoking and drink less

Other lifestyle factors that can help prevent osteoporosis include:

Get some sun

From late March or early April to the end of September, sunlight triggers the production of vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium.

This process helps strengthen teeth and bones, which in turn helps prevent conditions such as osteoporosis.

It's recommended to spend a short time in the sun each day.

During the autumn and winter, you need to get vitamin D from your diet because the sun is not strong enough for the body to make vitamin D.

Page last reviewed: 13 October 2022
Next review due: 13 October 2025