Past-menopause? Exercise your way to better bone health

The Bottom Line

  • Postmenopausal women are at increased risk of osteoporosis, making them more likely to suffer the serious health consequences of breaking a bone.
  • Research has shown that combined exercise programs may help this at-risk group improve or preserve their bone density, potentially reducing bone loss and fracture risk. 
  • Combined exercise programs could include activities such as resistance training, impact exercises, and aerobic exercises. 

Brittle bones can be a real problem as we age, especially for women after menopause. Osteoporosis is a condition that causes your bones to become weak and break more easily (1). Breaks occur most commonly in the hip, wrist, or spine (1;2). Aging alone increases your risk of osteoporosis, but you may be even more at risk if you are a woman, are past-menopause, have a family history of the disease, or have a small body frame. Lifestyle factors like smoking, alcohol, diet, and exercise can also play a role (1).

Falling and breaking a bone happens frequently among older adults (3) and can significantly decrease quality of life (4). Worldwide, an estimated 9 million fractures (aka breaks) occur every year due to osteoporosis (5). In Canada, osteoporosis accounts for 80% of all fractures after 50 years of age. This means that of the 30,000 Canadians that experience a broken hip each year, 24,000 are due to osteoporosis (4).

Is bone loss an inevitable part of aging? Yes – to a certain extent – but there are things you can do to slow it down.

What the research tells us

A recent systematic review found that combined exercise programs can improve and preserve bone density in postmenopausal women above and beyond the benefits offered by usual levels of daily physical activity. These benefits to bone density can prevent bone loss and potentially reduce the risk of fractures (2). Combined exercise programs may include activities such as resistance training (e.g. upper and lower body training – leg press, squats, weights) (2;6), impact exercises (e.g. jumping, skipping), and aerobic exercises (e.g. walking, jogging, dancing). Programs evaluated in the review were delivered either at a center, or in both one’s home and a center; were fully or partially supervised; occurred 2-6 days/week; and lasted between 8-30 months (2).

For those who are worried that exercise may increase their risk of falling – no exercise-related injuries were reported in the review (2).

We all know that exercise is good for building muscle, but combined exercise may be good for your bones too!

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Author Details


  1. Mayo Clinic. Osteoporosis. [Internet] 2016. [cited March 2018]. Available from  
  2. Zhao R, Zhang M, Zhang Q. The effectiveness of combined exercise interventions for preventing postmenopausal bone loss: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2017; 47(4):241-251. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2017.6969. 
  3. Silva R, Eslick G, Duque G. Exercise for falls and fracture prevention in long term care facilities: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2013; 14(9):685-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2013.05.015.
  4. Osteoporosis Canada. Osteoporosis. [Internet] 2011. [cited March 2018]. Available from 
  5. Johnell O, Kanis JA. An estimate of the worldwide prevalence and disability associated with osteoporotic fractures. Osteoporos Int. 2006; 17(12):1726-1733. doi: 10.1007/s00198-006-0172-4.
  6. Milliken LA, Going SB, Houtkooper LB, et al. Effects of exercise training on bone remodeling, insulin-like growth factors, and bone mineral density in postmenopausal women with and without hormone replacement therapy. Calcif Tissue Int. 2003; 72(4):478-484. doi: 10.1007/s00223-001-1128-5. 

DISCLAIMER: These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (

Many of our Blog Posts were written before the COVID-19 pandemic and thus do not necessarily reflect the latest public health recommendations. While the content of new and old blogs identify activities that support optimal aging, it is important to defer to the most current public health recommendations. Some of the activities suggested within these blogs may need to be modified or avoided altogether to comply with changing public health recommendations. To view the latest updates from the Public Health Agency of Canada, please visit their website.