Steps for targeting exercise towards the skeleton to increase bone strength Academic Article uri icon


  • Osteoporosis is a disease of bone fragility resulting mostly from low bone mass and a concomitant increase in the risk for fracture. Exercise is a commonly prescribed intervention for osteoporosis because bone tissue is mechanosensitive. The ability of mechanical stimuli to influence bone biology has been known for over a century, but it has been only in the past several decades that great gains have been made in terms of understanding factors that influence this response. By understanding these factors, steps can be developed to maximize the osteogenic effects of exercise on the skeleton and potentially reduce the incidence of bone fractures. This paper outlines these steps. They include: 1) starting exercise when young while the skeleton is most responsive to mechanical stimuli; 2) selecting exercises that are dynamic and high-impact to maximize osteogenic responses, such as jumping for the lower extremity and racquet sports for the upper extremity; 3) exercising the specific skeletal regions you want to strengthen as the bone response to mechanical loading is highly site-specific; 4) exercising briefly, yet often to offset the desensitization of skeletal mechanotransduction pathways; and 5) continuing to exercise as you age to prevent bone loss and reduce the risk of falls. Following these steps will help to promote skeletal health at all ages and may reduce an individuals risk for fracture by augmenting bone mass and size during youth, while reducing age-related bone loss and the risk for falls in adulthood.

publication date

  • September 1, 2004