People with osteoporosis should be encouraged to exercise regularly in order to boost bone health and reduce the risk of falls, according to a panel of experts.

Continuing uncertainties about what type of physical activity people with osteoporosis can safely do has left many clinicians unsure of what to recommend and has deterred those with the condition from partaking in exercise in fear or worsening or sustaining a fracture.

The new guidance, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, reviews the existing evidence with the hope of clearing up any lingering confusion.

Frail osteoporosis patients should do low impact exercise for 20 minutes a day

The review found that physical activity and exercise isn’t associated with significant harm, and in general, the benefits of physical activity outweigh the risks.

The consensus statement therefore recommends that people with osteoporosis partake in muscle strengthening exercises two to three days a week and cardiovascular exercises (such as jogging, aerobics or Zumba) most days.

For those who have already sustained a vertebral fracture, or who are frail, the advice is to include lower impact exercise up to the level of brisk walking for 20 minutes every day.

The experts say it’s important that people with osteoporosis don’t miss out on the health benefits of exercise, particularly as it is known to strengthen bones, reduce the risk of fractures and improve posture.

Exercise can also help people with vertebral fractures reduce pain, and improve mobility and quality of life. Ideally it should be accompanied by guidance from a physiotherapist to ensure correct posture and encourage a return to normal activities

Regular exercise should be paired with other lifestyle changes including adequate calcium and vitamin D intake, not smoking, and cutting down on alcohol intake.

Osteoporosis exercise programmes “need to be more than a prescribed set of exercises”

“Osteoporosis exercise programmes, like other exercise programmes for older people and those with long-term conditions, need to be more than a prescribed set of exercises,” notes the statement.

“They need to consider education and physical literacy, support and goal setting, motivation strategies, behaviour change techniques and take into consideration needs and preferences.”

Chair of the expert panel, Professor Dawn Skelton, advises: “Anyone who is new to regular physical activity or who is worried about their technique or unsure how to build their fitness, can seek advice from any trained exercise instructor. Those with a history of falls or serious concerns about their balance can contact their local falls service.”