Skip navigation

Exercise and osteoporosis

Clinical bottom line: Exercise is helpful in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis in both pre-and postmenopausal women.

Systematic review:

Ernst E. Exercise for femal osteoporosis. A systematic review of randomised clinical trials. Sports Medicine 1998; 25: 359-368.

Date review completed: 1997

Number of trials included: 12

Number of patients: (1274 postmenopausal; 337 other women)

Control groups: no exercise.

Main outcomes: bone density.

Inclusion criteria were randomised clinical trial which assessed exercise for the treatment or prevention of osteoporosis in women.

MEDLINE, EMBASE and the Cochrane Library (to 1997) and the reviewer's own database on complementary therapies were searched. Experts were contacted, bibliographies of trials and reviews were checked for other reports. Data were extracted in a predefined manner. A descriptive anlaysis was conducted.


Twenty-one randomised trials were included which assessed mainly, but not solely, postmenopausal women. Treatments included aerobic, strengthening, resistance or weight-bearing exercise, no exercise and calcium supplementation or oestrogen. Follow-up varied between 8 months and four years. Most studies were relatively small. Eleven out of 16 studies in postmenopausal women showed improvements in bone density with either exercise or exercise plus calcium or oestrogen.

Adverse effects

There was no mention of adverse effects.



The effects of exercise on bone mass in women have been assessed in another systematic review [1]. This provided a meta-analysis and has been summarised on a separate web page (Bone mass and exercise in women).

Further reading

Wolff I et al. The effect of exercise training programs on bone mass: a meta-analysis of published controlled trials in pre- and postmenopausal women. Osteoporosis International 1999; 9: 1-12.

Related topics