The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


Bench Exercises for Osteoporosis and Osteopenia

Written by
Sue Beckham, PhD
Posted in
Fit Tips

Thursday, Sep 15, 2016

Osteoporosis is a significant loss of bone resulting in a high risk of fracture. Worldwide, osteoporosis is responsible for a fracture every 3 seconds. Hip fractures are expected to increase from those seen in 1990 by 310% and 240% in men and women, respectively, by 2050. But the good news is bone loss can be mitigated through physical activity. The first set of exercises in this video is appropriate for those with osteoporosis whose doctor does not recommend they perform jumping motions because the risk of a bone fracture during such activities is high. The second set of exercises involves hopping/jumping activities that can be utilized for those with osteopenia whose bone density is low but not as severe as those with osteoporosis. These exercises are also great for those who currently have normal bone density levels but would like to prevent, or slow, the loss that is a natural part of the aging process.

An appropriate goal for someone with osteopenia or osteoporosis is to gradually increase the number of repetitions to 20, performing 10 with each leg leading when applicable, working up to 2-3 sets, 3 days per week. With each exercise, it is important that the torso remain upright while neutral spinal allignment is maintained. These activities will also improve coordination and balance which helps to prevent falls. Note that these exercises can also be performed using a porch or other area that is slightly raised that allows you to step up onto a solid platform. A doctor should always be consulted before an exercise program is started to determine what exercises are most appropriate.

Exercises for Osteoporosis

Forward Step Up: Alternate Legs – Facing the bench, step up with the lead leg placing the entire foot on the bench, then follow with the trail leg. Then step down, controlling the movement. Keep the torso upright and core activated. Check that the hip, knee, and ankle are aligned, and the knee is not rolling inward during stepping. Alternate legs every 2 steps.

Step Up with High Knee Hold – Facing the bench, step up, bringing the opposite  knee level with the hip to achieve a 90 degree angle at the hip, pausing briefly in this position. Step down and continue by alternating lead legs each time you step up. If raising the knee to 90 degrees is not possible, raise it as high as possible and hold this position.

Alternating Diagonal Step Up – Stand to the side of the bench while facing one end. Step up diagonally and forward onto the middle of the bench with the inside leg so that the knee is over the ankle. Bring the trail leg onto the bench. Next, with the same leg, step down off the bench diagonally and backward to the opposite side. Then step down with the trail leg. Repeat the same pattern to return to the starting position, leading with the opposite leg.

Single- Leg Straddle Step – Start by standing on the center part of the bench, facing the end. Step down to the side with one leg, then with the other to the opposite side so that you are straddling the bench. Next, step up onto the bench, one leg at a time. Alternate lead legs to improve coordination and agility.

Exercises for Osteopenia and Prevention

Single-Leg Step Hops – Facing the bench, step up onto the bench with a hop one leg at a time and then back down. Switch lead legs after performing half the desired number of repetitions. To make the exercise more challenging, increase your speed. Remember to keep the core upright and spine neutral.

Two-Footed Bench Hops – Facing the bench, jump up onto the bench and then back down with both feet. Keep the torso as upright as possible, avoiding excessive forward lean. Land softly with the knees bent to absorb shock. Swing the arms forward as you jump onto the bench to assist in maintaining balance.

Straddle Hops – Start standing on top of the bench, facing the end. Bending both knees, jump off the bench landing in a straddle position. Land softly, keeping the hip, knee, and ankle aligned. Avoid the tendency for the knee to move inward. Next jump back up onto the bench with both legs. Pull the arms upward as you jump up onto the bench.

Switch Foot – Face the bench standing towards one side. Perform continuous alternating one-leg hops moving laterally down the bench and then back again. Be careful to place the entire foot on the bench for stability. Keep the torso upright as you continue to move laterally switching legs.

Discover more exercises for osteoporosis and osteopenia, as well as options to improve balance, coordination and agility at the Cooper Institute’s Older Adult and Exercise course.