Osteoporosis Awareness Month: What Exercises Build Bone?

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“Your health is an investment and not an expense.”

– Unknown

The human body has 207 bones and as we enter adulthood some bones fuse together forming 206 skeletal bones.  Our bones are composed of two types of bone (1) cortical bone (compact bone) which makes up 80% of the skeletal mass, but accounts for only a small proportion of the total bone turnover (2) trabecular (cancellous / spongy bone) which represents 20% of the skeletal mass and accounts for a far greater percentage (80%) of bone turnover!

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According to Wolff’s law “that every change in form and function of a bone, or in its function alone, is followed by certain definite changes in its internal architecture and equally definite secondary alteration in its mathematical laws.”  The shorter version is bone is deposited and reabsorbed or reshaped in response to the stresses placed on it. 

  Trabecular / Cancellous / Spongy Bone Cortical / Compact Bone
Definition  Consist of mineralized bars with an osseous tissue that fills the inner region of the long bones.  Exterior non-cancellous region of the bone that consists of closely packed osteons (mineral matrix transporting blood).
Composed of  Mineralize bars (tracecular)  Particles are visible to the naked eye.
Shape Cuboidal  Cylindrical 
Storage Fat Red Blood Cells (RBC)
Structure Less dense and less rigid Rigid and denser 
Location  Outer layers of the bone Inner layers of the bone


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Our bones have specific structures called osteoblasts and osteoclasts each having critical roles in keeping our bones healthy and strong constantly undergoing the remodeling process.  This necessary process acts to repair bone microdamage that occurs normally through daily activity.  It also acts to replace bone during the growth process and following fractures.  Osteoblasts help build bone and contain estrogen receptors.  Osteoclasts resorb bones by dissolving bone, mineral and digest bone matrix.  Osteoclasts also have estrogen receptors present.   

Osteoblast = build bone / builder 

Osteoclast = clean out old bone / dishwasher 

Skeletal bone = foundation of building / home  

Bone Mineral Density (BMD)

Refers to the amount of mineral contained within a certain amount of bone.  If a person has 1g of mineral for every square centimeter of bone, BMD = 1.0g/cm2

BMD helps determine bone strength and fracture risk.  The BMD provides clinicians with a practical way to identify individuals with osteoporosis and those of risk of developing the disease.  The BMD is also used in monitoring therapy efficacy.  

* Male runners who exceeded 20 miles per week showed decreased BMD.  

Weight Bearing Exercises

  • Dancing (Salsa and Flamingo) and Balle
  • Tai Chi
  • Running
  • Modified Pilates
  • Fast Walking
  • Weight Training
  • Tennis
  • Hiking

Bone Building Principles 

  • Start young / any point in your life 
  • Select dynamic high-impact exercises 
  • Exercise the bones you want to strengthen 
  • Exercise briefly, yet often 
  • Continue to exercise as you age

Bone Building in Childhood

  • Children who engage in high-impact activities like gymnastics, ballet, dancing have greater bone mass than those who do low / non-impact activities (e.g. cycling, swimming) 
  • Adequate Ca+ intake enhances skeletal responses to exercise 
  • School based intervention enhances skeletal response best to have 40 min per day compared to 60 min per week. Physical Education programs are important!
  • Jumping as little as 10 min per day 3x per week increased bone mass.  

Adult Exercise 

  • Exercises need to be site-specific 
  • 2 to 4 hours per week of moderate activity decreases risk of future hip fractures by 25 %
  • No perfect exercise program: need to improve balance and muscle strength 
  • Mode / intensity: moderate to high impact weight bearing activities with or without a weighted vest, jumping, tennis, volleyball, basketball, resistance training (weights, therabands including multi-directional exercises)
  • Frequency / duration: 30 to 60 minutes weight bearing and resistive exercises that target all muscles at least 3x/week.  

Older Adult Exercise 

  • Fractures can be prevented by increasing the loaded bone 
  • Limited skeletal effects
  • Exercise is better targeted at protecting the skeleton from excessive loads
  • Up to 75% of hip and vertebral fractures occur in people who have a t-score of better than -2.5 
  • 90% of hip fractures and 33% of vertebral fractures are caused by a fall


We believe in treating the whole person with a holistic approach and blend our knowledge and training of movement, nutrition, massage therapy and traditional chinese medicine. 

We love teaching mindful movement and even during this time, we are here to support you in your journey to wellness by offering online remote training from anywhere in the world. Contact us today to get started and learn to move with less pain and greater ease. We look forward to answering your movement questions and/or concerns.

Feel free to check out our blog posts specific to pilates, pre/post natal, bone building for osteoporosis/osteopenia, mindful meditation, restorative yoga therapy, partner and endurance training.

Assumption of the Risk: By attempting any of the exercises, you do so at your own risk.  We make no representations, guarantees or warranties that the information or exercises on this blog are appropriate for you or will result in improvements of your medical condition or function.  

Not medical advice or physical therapy.  This content is intended to provide information and instructions on general exercises that may help increase strength, mobility, and function for specific areas of the body.  It is not intended to be a substitute for obtaining a medical diagnosis or medical or physical therapy advice from a qualified licensed provider.  You should seek medical advice from a qualified physician or physical therapist before trying any of the exercises or self-treatment suggestions on this blog, particularly if your pain is from a traumatic injury or event.  


  1. MACDOUGALL, J.D., 1992. Relationship among running mileage, bone density and
    serum testosterone in male runner. Journal Applied Physiology, .
  2. MAGOKS, R., 2007. The Bone Response to Non-Weight-Bearing Exercise is Sport, Site and Sex-Specific. Journal of Sports Medicine, 17(2),.
  3. OTT, S.M., 2018. Cortical or Trabecular Bone: What’s the Difference? . American Journal of Nephrology, 47(6), pp. 373-375.
  4. TODD, J.A. and ROBINSON, R.J., 2003. Osteoporosis and Exercise (Review). Postgraduate Medical Journal, , pp. 320-330.
  5. WOLFF, J., 1892. Das Gesetz der Transformation der Knochen. Royal Academy of Sciences in Berlin.