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Osteoporosis Exercises: Build Your Bones While You Sit

osteoporosis-exercises-sitting

‘Tis the season… to celebrate with friends and family, to dash to the mall, and often, to over-indulge in foods that you normally wouldn’t eat.

Rather than stressing out about occasional holiday indulgences, how about adding some bone-building exercises to the mix? The easy and fun exercises I describe here target areas that are most susceptible to fractures: the spine, legs, hips, wrists, and arms.

And the best part is that you can do them throughout the day in-between your usual activities, or while you are sitting down relaxing, talking on the phone, or watching TV.

At first, you might want to get acquainted with these exercises by practicing them once or twice during a short dedicated exercise session, but even then, you don’t have to set aside a large block of time – just squeeze in a few exercises when you can. Once you are familiar with the moves, use your imagination to get those muscles moving while you’re doing something else. You’ll see that the sky’s the limit to find an opportunity to increase your bone density!

In the Save Our Bones Program, I dedicate part of a chapter to Density Training exercises and their importance in decreasing your risk of fractures. Why are they so important? For the answer, we look to Wolff’s Law of bone formation.

Julius Wolff was a German anatomist who postulated that bone is created and changed as a reaction to the force of muscular tension and the pressure of gravity imposed on it. His theory was based on the now proven fact that bone is living and active tissue, and that it therefore adjusts to the stress it receives by increasing and decreasing in size just as muscles do.

So when you exercise with light weights (or using your body weight in some cases), you are actually stimulating bone growth. And the exercises I’m about to give you do just that.

Tips and Cautions

Before we get to the exercises, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Check with your doctor before you begin this or any exercise program.
  • Do a short warm-up before you begin. It can be as simple as walking in place for a couple of minutes. The idea is to warm up your muscles before you exert them.
  • Start slowly and cautiously, particularly if you haven’t exercised for a while.
  • Perform each exercise with slow, steady movement.
  • Do what you can. If an exercise instructs you to raise your leg a couple of feet off the floor and you can only manage a couple of inches, that’s great! As long as you’re using your muscles, you’re benefiting your bones.
  • If it hurts, stop! You should feel gentle muscle exertion during the exercises, but not pain.
  • Breathe! All too often, we tighten up and forget to breathe during exercise.
  • Break your exercises into two or three sessions during the day. It doesn’t all have to be done at once.
  • Repeat each exercise 6-10 times.

The Exercises

Most of these exercises can be done using a simple straight back or folding chair (or on an exercise ball, if you have one).

If the exercise calls for weights, you can use cans from your pantry that weigh about a pound. Or, If you have ankle and wrist weights (which I talk about in my Simplecise report), you can use those. And if you’re planning to do these exercises on a regular basis, you might want to purchase a couple of 1-pound (or 1-kilo) dumbbells. Cans work just fine, but dumbbells can be a little easier to hold on to.

Spine Exercises

Rotator Cuff

Bone Target: Spine, shoulders
Muscle Target: Mid-back, shoulders
Prop: Two one-pound cans, or your wrist weights

Sit on a chair with your legs close together, your arms bent, and the weights held in front of you about waist high. Keeping your upper arms and elbows tight against your sides, simply rotate your forearms out away from your body, opening your arms. From this position, push your entire arm out to the side, away from your body as you pull your shoulders back and down (you should feel this between your shoulder blades). Reverse the movement by bending your arms and lowering them until your upper arms are back against your sides. Then bring your forearms back together in front of your waist.

Seated Row

Bone Target: Spine  
Muscle Target: Mid and upper back
Prop: Two one-pound cans, or your wrist weights

Sit on a chair and hold the cans straight out in front of you, with your palms facing each other (your arms should be straight, at chest level, a little lower than your shoulders). Bend your arms, pulling them in toward your body. Bring your elbows as far back as possible (they should be pointing behind you).

And be sure to check our Osteoporosis Exercise: The Spine Strengthener for a great overall bone building spine exercise.

Leg and Hip Exercises

Leg Extension

Bone Target: Thighs
Muscle Target: Front of thighs
Prop: None, or ankle weights

Sit with your feet flat on the floor. Lift one leg slightly off the floor, then straighten that leg. To return to your starting position, just bend your knee and lower your leg to the floor. Repeat 6-10 times for each leg. Begin by just using your body weight. As your strength increases, you can add ankle weights.

Straight Leg Lift

Bone Target: Hips
Muscle Target: Front of hips
Prop: None, or ankle weights

Sit at the front edge of the chair and straighten one leg in front of you (foot flexed, toes pointed toward the ceiling). Keeping your back as straight as possible, simply raise your straight leg a a foot or two off the floor, then lower it back down. Repeat with your other leg. (Even if you can only lift your leg a couple of inches, you’ll still gain benefits from this exercise. Just do what you can.)

Stand up

Bone Target: Hips
Muscle Target: Back of hips and thighs
Prop: None

Start by sitting near the edge of your chair. Then just raise yourself to a standing position (if you need to use your arms to push off the chair, that’s ok). The key with this exercise, and what will give your thighs a workout, is to lower yourself back to a sitting position as SLOWLY as possible. That’s it! You can increase the difficulty of this exercise by placing your hands on your thighs and not using them for support.

Side Leg Lift

Bone Target: Hips
Muscle Target: Outer hips
Prop: None (or ankle weights)

Stand to one side of your chair or any other stable structure such as a kitchen countertop, placing your arm on the back of the chair for balance. Lift your outside leg straight out to the side and then bring it back in. Again, even if you can only lift a few inches, this is a valuable exercise. Move to the other side of the chair and repeat with your other leg.

Wrist and Arm Exercises

Wrist Curl

Bone Target: Wrists 
Muscle Target: forearms
Prop: Two cans that weigh about one pound each, or wrist weights

Sit on a chair with legs apart, your forearms resting on your thighs, and your palms facing down. Hold a can in each hand and do 20-30 wrist curls to work the back of your forearms. Flex your wrists to bend your hands upward, then lower them back down. Then, to work the front of your forearms, rest the back of your forearms on your thighs with your palms facing up and repeat the exercise, this time flexing your wrists in the other direction.

Chair Lift

Bone Target: Wrist
Muscle Target: Forearms
Prop: None

Sit on a chair and lean forward slightly, placing the heels of your hands on the chair on either side of your thighs. Just press up gently, using your arms to lift your hips slightly off the chair. Then use your arm strength to lower yourself back into the chair.

Shoulder Press

Bone Target: Shoulders
Muscle Target: Shoulders, upper arms
Prop: Two one-pound cans, or wrist weights

Sit on your chair with your feet flat on the floor. With a weight in each hand, just press your arms up toward the ceiling until they’re almost straight, then slower lower your arms back down.

Conclusion

While nothing beats the effectiveness of the Density Training routine in the Save Our Bones Program, the exercises above are a great way for you to sit and get bone-fit!

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54 comments. Leave Yours Now →

  1. Julia Grifin June 22, 2013, 8:00 pm

    I am excited to do these exercises and others on your site. I have the book and I am already doing the three exercises you have in SOBP.
    Thanks so much, Vivian. I really needed your program as I have just gone off my meds for Osteoporosis.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA June 25, 2013, 8:21 am

      Julia, that’s fantastic! I am so glad the Program has been beneficial to you. :)

  2. Donna March 22, 2013, 10:55 pm

    While the book was informative, I felt overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. Foods? Specific exercises?? more exercises? avoid water from tap, eat this don’t do that, etc. I just want a list: Do this every day, step by step. Meal plan with specific directions, for 1 month…being mindful of wheat intolerance and legume intolerance.

  3. janet October 13, 2012, 3:18 pm

    Hi Vivian:

    I am trying to do the exercises you suggest but have difficulty because I have to go onto the computer and find each time. I have only found three for now.

    Do you have a hardcopy of all the exercises you recomment? This would make it so much easier. Hope to hear from you.

    Janet

  4. Wiggi Dietz September 24, 2012, 4:05 pm

    Great exercise videos!!!!! Thanks.

  5. Sharon February 20, 2012, 7:26 pm

    Your thoughts on taking Calcitonin?

  6. Suzy November 21, 2011, 8:44 pm

    I was a tad horrified by the photo accompanying this article. The woman is shown bending at the waist to the side. Bending at the waist is a HUGE no-no for anyone with osteoporosis of the back, and side bends (or twists, too) are also unwise. Perhaps Vivian can put a different photo — perhaps showing one of the exercises mentioned — so we can all protect our bones!

    But thank you, Vivian, for all the work you do to get the word out about what we CAN do!!

    - Suzy

  7. Elisabeth November 20, 2011, 9:24 pm

    All of these excercises are great. Is there a book with
    all of them available. That would be a great way to help
    me actually practice them on a regular basis. I am looking forward to your suggestion. Thank you, Vivian, for helping us stay fit.

  8. hamida November 16, 2011, 1:56 pm

    I can not seem to find raw milk but have found organic milk which is pasturised but not homogenised.Is this milk acidic or alkaline.?

  9. Judy Suthard March 3, 2011, 7:43 am

    Other than exercise, supplements, and diet is there anything else such as wild yam that would be helpful?
    I think the chair exercises were excellent. They really work areas I have neglected. Thank you

  10. Mary February 20, 2011, 12:54 pm

    What do you think about the new drug Prolia – two injections per year? Thanks

  11. Milli January 9, 2011, 8:56 pm

    How often is a bone density test recommended? I had a DEXA scan a few months ago, after which I started on the program. I know the scans are not good for the body. Is a year too soon? Are other tests safer, like the test done on the heel? I would like some verification that I am moving in the right direction. What would be considered “normal” bone loss for a woman in late 50s?

    • Carol Richardson July 11, 2011, 2:08 pm

      How often do I need to have a Dexa scan?

    • Barbara Ouellette January 18, 2011, 8:03 pm

      Thank you so much for your informational emails. I am a believer in doing things the “natural” way as drugs have too many adverse destructive effects. I have just discovered Joint Juice at Walgreens and bought it yesterday. It taste great and I was just assuming it is natural however, after thinking about it I am not sure. Do you recommend this product to strengthen bones and cartilage? It sounds wonderful. Thanks.
      Barbara

      • Wally October 22, 2011, 10:26 pm

        I really loved the different sitting exercises and their so very helpful. Thanks loads.

      • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA January 19, 2011, 1:21 pm

        Hi Barbara,

        The main ingredient in Joint Juice is glucosamine, which is usually suggested for joint aches as in the case of osteoarthritis (not osteoporosis). Yes, glucosamine has been proven in studies to be helpful for joints and cartilage. In terms of bone health, however, be aware that Joint Juice also contains green tea extract, which I don’t recommend due to its fluoride content.

  12. Sue Russell December 18, 2010, 9:25 pm

    Your daily Emails and content are about the best I have seen regarding Health, everybody needs to see this information.

    Many Thanks

  13. Mary Kanya December 9, 2010, 1:01 pm

    Hi Vivian. I have been going to Curves three times a week but I do wonder whether these exercises are beneficial to my bones.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA December 11, 2010, 12:16 am

      Hi Mary,

      If you’re working the circuit at Curves, you should be doing both weight-bearing exercise and muscle-building exercise, both of which will improve your bone health.

  14. Elaine Schaeffer December 8, 2010, 11:39 pm

    Thank you the rotator cuff, spine, shoulder most interesting.This will take trying but have done some like this and just sort of stopped but i am very active, thank you

  15. Michael December 8, 2010, 11:23 am

    Hi Vivian,

    I read an article which references many others about huge negative effect which use of microwaves makes on our food. The main idea is that MW destroys between 60 to 90% of food’s benefits, so even if we follow the idea of eating only organic and not-modified products, it will give us a little good if the food goes thru MW. Do you have your opinion on this?

    Thanks,Michael

  16. Angela December 8, 2010, 6:00 am

    I agree with iolette. Even though the exercises are simple I would also like to see them on a video.

  17. iolette December 8, 2010, 3:27 am

    enjoyed very much the exercise, but it would be more useful if you explain it in a vedio. Thanks.

  18. Carmelle December 7, 2010, 10:15 pm

    Thank you for all the excercise suggestions. I personally use my own format of fitness with regular daily 35 minute sessions that I incorporate daily.I have my routine and it has worked for me for the last 10 years.I still have MS(30 years),asthma(10 years) and working on keeping myself strong(particularly my bones by working my core muscles).I feel confident that my daily routine will keep me well and I hope I have inspired others to do the same.Everyone stay well, and work at it because you are very worth it.

  19. Genevieve Smith December 7, 2010, 8:16 pm

    Thank you Vivian……. this is very interesting and makes sense to do these exercises.

    Genevieve Smith

  20. Sylvia December 7, 2010, 5:54 pm

    Dear Vivian,
    Thank you so much for always thinking new ways to help us build our bones. The exercises are great. I’ve been practicing the same exercises with machines in the gym two times a week, and now I can practice them at home too.
    I keep on looking at your emails. God bless you.
    Sylvia

  21. Cynthia Kuehn December 7, 2010, 4:38 pm

    Vivian, you are wonderful! I have been following your program for 1 1/2 years. I write down everything I eat; AL & AC and do your other exercises. My doctor told me I am her experiment. She can’t wait till my bone density end of March 2011. I will do these exercises too. I want to show her building my bone CAN be done through diet and exercise. I know you are behind me on this. Thank you.

    • Frannie Weber September 7, 2011, 9:22 pm

      How did your March 2011 dexa scan turn out?

  22. Customer Support December 7, 2010, 2:11 am

    Hi Doug,

    I removed your address and phone number from your comment. just as an FYI, if you’re concerned about security, it’s not a good idea to post personally identifying information on a public blog. :)

    And in future, the most efficient way to get help with order issues is to send an email to info@saveourbones.com or to click the big yellow Customer Support link at the top of any of our web pages (there’s a little picture of a life preserver next to it). Using either of those methods, your question/issue will go directly to customer support where we can assist you.

    If you’re able to make calls to the U.S., you can place an order by phone by calling 1-888-752-7563. Or you can order with a check or money order by following the instructions at http://saveourbones.com/mail/.

  23. jenny December 7, 2010, 1:27 am

    Great idea on exercises. I do that everyday.
    How much is your book on The Bone Health Revolution. I am very much interested in purchasing it.

    jenny

  24. Shula December 7, 2010, 12:02 am

    Thank you, Vivian for the nice variety of exercises. From what I understand, exercises need to be varied and alternated every once in a while in order to be effective. Is it true?

    Shula

  25. Shirley Bricker December 6, 2010, 11:16 pm

    My bone density T Score is -4.4. My new doctor said he has never seen a scan that bad, and does not advise taking bisphosphonates but would highly recommend forteo, which is a totally different and is a parathyroid hormone that has been very successful over the past 10 yrs. What is your take on that?

  26. catherine smith December 6, 2010, 10:47 pm

    Thank you, so much, for the exercises. I have a rod and screws in my spine and a whole knee replacement and I am 85 years old, but will try to do some of these exercises. I do not get any exercise, so this will be a big help. I will have to try a few at a time, until I get used to them.

  27. Helen December 6, 2010, 9:30 pm

    Great bone-tip exercises – thank you so much, Vivian!

    • Marjorie December 16, 2010, 1:18 am

      ViVian it would be great to have these
      Exercises on Video showing how to do them

      • Emilienne Kovakka October 8, 2012, 1:58 pm

        Where can I buy this evercises video.

  28. Margaret December 6, 2010, 4:34 pm

    I’m 62, currently taking water aerobics twice a week for an hour each session. I’ve regained strength and feel better. Does this help osteoporosis which is severe in my back? I had infusion treatment last March but since reading your articles I will refuse next treatment and follow your suggestions. My Doctor is not pleased but I’m hoping next bone density will convince her.

    • Linda December 6, 2010, 6:29 pm

      Water exercises do not build bone. However, it’s good for aerobic exercise (for the heart) and for flexibility, strength, and stretching.

  29. Erlinda Siatron December 6, 2010, 3:09 pm

    Thanks Vivian for this issue. I tried to download your previous offer unfortunately I was not able to make a copy. Are you going to
    mail me a hard copy? The exercises are very good. Our medicare insurance pays for our fitness program. As usual, I go daily to our YMCA for daily exercises. I will be 69 years old in a couple of weeks. Thanks again for your book. With out your book, I may have several fractures already. Your book helped my bones strong and I do not take any prescriptions prescribed by my physician.

  30. Marie Thompson December 6, 2010, 2:36 pm

    Thanks again Vivian for your information. We are having such bad weather at the moment in the UK that I can really focus on the exercises which are so helpful as I remain indoors. I appreciate the time you take to send them to me. Marie

  31. Paul Hurcomb December 6, 2010, 2:14 pm

    Why do we have to get an ok from our Doctor before doing these exercises? we know their first agenda is prescribe meds to keep us sick, not healthy. paul

  32. Michael December 6, 2010, 1:53 pm

    Hi Vivian,

    I am wondering why potato with peel is alkiline product but when it is without it is acid (as per your book table)? How such small portion of the vegetable makes so big difference on the vegetable’s PH?

    Thank you,
    Michael

  33. Susan December 6, 2010, 12:05 pm

    Thank you for these valuable exercises! Fortunately, I found your website and bought the ebook before the osteoporosis craze hit…so thankful to never have gotten into the
    heavy drugs. These exercises and strontium are all I’ve used and have remained strong and
    sound. Thank you. Susan (64)

  34. Ana Blakely December 6, 2010, 11:56 am

    I am using the information you provide for my eduucation and wellbeing. Thanks for your dedication.

  35. Allison Ifferte December 6, 2010, 11:47 am

    Thanks so much for all the great exercises. I also bought the 10 lb. weighted vest, which I use for while walking. Its great for losing weight as well. Love all the info you have been sending me…have a blessed holiday!!

  36. Madelyn Guthrie December 6, 2010, 11:03 am

    I am really enjoying your Save Our Bones program. The exercise program is important
    and really happy to find exercises to add help
    for saving my bones. Need all the help I can get. Thank you for all the good information.

    Madelyn Guthrie

  37. MARYlOU December 6, 2010, 8:50 am

    I HAVE TROCHANTERIC BURSITIS, WOULD THE CHAIR EXERCISES HELP ME?

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA December 6, 2010, 1:18 pm

      Hi Marylou,

      At present, I’m focusing all of my energies on my research into osteoporosis and bone health issues. It’s possible that these exercises could help your condition, but it would be a good idea to show them to your doctor and get his/her opinion.

  38. Jorge December 6, 2010, 8:31 am

    In my experience 1 pound or 1 kilo weights will not impose sufficient load upon an individual’s bones to cause the bone to adapt by increasing it’s density. To avoid osteoporosis or to decrease the risk of suffering osteoporosis in later life start resistance training at a young age and continue this habit throughout life. Some of us may have to travel back in time to achieve this however.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA December 6, 2010, 1:22 pm

      Hi Jorge,

      It’s never too late to start, and 1-pound weights or body weight exercise can have a huge effect for beginning exercisers or those who are unaccustomed to working with weights. As your body adapts, it’s true that you’ll want to (very gradually) increase the amount of weight.

  39. Bill Nixon December 6, 2010, 7:59 am

    Love the exercises, especially standing while watching T.V. exercises. Google “Strontium and Osteoporosis” to learn about this exciting protocol used widely in Europe as a result of very impressive outcomes in large and small clinical studies. I got off the bisphosphonates a year ago and have made great progress taking 680 mg. strontium daily ever since!

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA December 6, 2010, 1:27 pm

      Hi Bill,

      I’m glad this is working for you, but you might want to take a look at ‘Vivian Answers Day’ #6 and read Q&A #3 for my views on strontium.

  40. carol December 6, 2010, 6:26 am

    I like these exercises Vivian. l have been doing some of them alrady but you have added some l am not familiar with. Will certainly give them a try as l cannot do anything too vigorous because of lower back problems. Thanks for sharing.

    Carol

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