New Australian Position Statement for Exercise and Osteoporosis

New Australian Position Statement for Exercise and Osteoporosis

A major milestone has been achieved this month with the publication of new guidelines by Exercise and Sports Science Australia (ESSA) on exercise for bone health.

Scientists have known for decades that exercise strengthens bone and helps prevent osteoporosis, but specific guidance on the kinds of exercise that really make a difference to bone has been lacking. Professor Belinda Beck, lead author of the new guideline and one of Osteoporosis Australia’s exercise experts, stresses the importance of targeted exercise for bone health. ‘Regular exercise of the kind that raises your heart rate is important for reducing our risk of common ‘lifestyle’ diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, but we know that aerobic exercise on its own makes little or no difference to bones’, says Professor Beck.

Bones need to be ‘stressed’ in very specific ways in order to get stronger. There is now good quality evidence that weight bearing impact exercises, such as hopping and jumping, and progressive resistance training (PRT), such as lifting weights in the gym, are the most effective exercises for improving and preserving bone strength throughout life. These types of exercise are described for 3 key groups: low-risk individuals, moderate-risk individuals and importantly recommendations for people at high-risk of fracture are also included in the guidelines.

Experts have generally been very cautious with exercise advice for people with osteoporosis, but Prof Beck emphasises the growing evidence for the benefits of quite intensive resistance exercise in this group. Prof Beck said ‘New research tells us that lifting quite heavy loads improves bone strength in people with osteoporosis, and doesn’t put them at increased risk of fractures; however, it’s absolutely crucial that these exercises are performed under strict supervision by a qualified exercise professional’.  Many osteoporotic fractures occur as the result of a fall, and specific guidance on exercise to improve muscle strength and improve posture and balance to reduce the risk of falls is included in the guideline.

The Position Statement been published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, available here: