Your genes are responsible for determining your height and the strength of your skeleton, but lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise influence how healthy your bones are.
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.
Read more about the physical activity guidelines for adults and find out more about:
Weight-bearing exercises are exercises where your feet and legs support your weight.
High-impact weight-bearing exercises, 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.
Read more about choosing sports shoes and trainers.
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 aren't weight-bearing exercises, however.
Read more about physical activity guidelines for older adults.
Resistance exercises use 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 bone health.
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 strong bones. Adults need 700mg a day, which you should be able to get from your daily diet. Calcium-rich foods include:
- leafy green vegetables
- dried fruit
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 are:
- oily fish – such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel
- red meat
- egg yolks
- fortified foods such as most fat spreads and some breakfast cereals
- dietary supplements
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:
- quitting smoking – smoking is associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis
- limiting your alcohol intake – the NHS recommends not drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week; it's also important to avoid binge drinking
Read more about looking after your bones on the Royal Osteoporosis Society website.
Get some sun!
This process helps strengthen teeth and bones, which in turn helps prevent conditions such as osteoporosis.
Read more about how to get vitamin D from sunlight.
Page last reviewed: 18 June 2019
Next review due: 18 June 2022