Active Choices to Restore and Maintain Bone and Joint Health

Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation

Activity Choices to Restore and Maintain Bone and Joint Health

Physical activity is important for keeping your joints limber and muscles strong, but also can improve balance and coordination.  It helps maintain healthy muscles, which may prevent falls that could lead to fractures.  The best type of activity for you depends on age and ability.  The information on these pages should be used as a guide, but check with your doctor before starting any exercise program or activity, and select exercise that is right – and enjoyable – for you.

Bone Mass

An important consideration for healthy bones and joints is bone mass.  Bone mass is determined by the type and intensity of exercise, the age at which it began, and the number of years spent in training.  Physical activity is critical to the developing bones of children and teens.  For adults, peak bone mass is reached around the mid thirties, at which time, physical activity is vital to conserving bone.

Variety is the Spice

Activities for all ages should be a combination of vigorous and moderate.

  • Vigorous activity makes you breathe harder and your heart pump faster.
  • Moderate activity keeps you moving.

Already Have Painful Joints?

If you already have joint pain, select non-impact exercise that won’t cause further wear to your already painful joints.  Consider cycling, swimming, even in-line skating, and other activities during which you’re not coming down hard on your feet (like running) or pivoting and twisting joints (like basketball).  This is important, because knees absorb the greatest force of the impact.

As your joints become stronger, check with your doctor, and graduate to walking and stair-climbing.  Listen to your body – it will tell you when you’re pushing your own limits.

Non-impact exercise is the best choice for people who are overweight, for the same reasons as those who already have joint pain.  Rather than risk wear and tear on your joints, develop a regimen of non-impact exercise.  As you loose the pounds, you can expand your activity choices.  Your joints will thank you in a lifetime of healthy service.

Regardless of your level of ability, you’ll benefit from choosing from a variety of activities that develop different skills and keep your activity habits interesting:

  • Endurance, vigorous activity for long distances or periods of time
  • Flexibility, bending and stretching activities such as Yoga or Tai Chi
  • Strength and Balance, resistance activities such as lifting weights

For tips on warm ups, see Injury Prevention.

Canada’s Physical Activity News – Public Health Agency of Canada

  • For children, Canada’s Physical Activity Guide advises a goal of 90 minutes of daily physical activity.
  • For adults, 60 minutes of daily exercise is recommended.
  • For older people, the normal aging process makes it very important to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day.