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How to increase spinal bone density with exercise

By Dr. Susan E. Brown, PhD

We need a strong back as we age — to maintain good posture, stay more  functional, be able to lift more (be it furniture, groceries, firewood, babies) and be pain free and more playful with kids or grandkids. In short, to stay active life-long and have more fun. 

Now we can add spinal bone strengthening to our list of reasons for building stronger back muscles. In new research from Korea, women aged 60 to 75 underwent both magnetic resonance imaging of the paraspinal muscles (the muscles that run up the back along either side the spine) and bone mineral density testing. Those women with well-developed lower back spinal muscles enjoyed higher bone density as compared to those with less back muscle mass.

The average woman without a regular exercise program to strengthen the lower back muscles loses 50% of her back muscle strength between the ages of 50 and 80.

5 Better Bones tips for strengthening the lower back muscles

  1. Do regular exercise to build the back extensor muscles. My favorite exercise is the one developed by the Mayo Clinic, which they used even with women who had previous spinal fractures.
  2. Practice good posture, which is an exercise in itself. Stand tall, shoulders back but relaxed and imagine showing off a lovely necklace.
  3. Train with weights. A simple routine of upper arm exercises with light hand weights is a good way for many to start (bicep curls or arm lifts, etc.) Working with a trainer who adjusts and monitors your progress is also very helpful. For those of you who like to walk, using a weighted vest is a simple and time efficient way to build muscle and bone.
  4. Mindful exercises like yoga and Pilates also offer postures and moves that strengthen the back.
  5. Seeking the advice of a physical therapist is always an excellent idea, especially if you have a have fractured or have special health concern.



Dae-Young Lee et al., Relationship between bone mineral density and spinal muscle area in magnetic resonance imaging.  J Bone Metab. 2015 Nov. 22(4):197-204.

Sinaki, M et al., Stronger Back Muscles Reduce the Incidence of Vertebral Fractures: A Prospective 10 Year Follow-up of Postmenopausal Women. Bone, Vol. 30, No 6, June 2002:836-841.


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We created the Better Bones blog as our forum to express opinions and educate the public about natural means of supporting and improving bone health and overall wellness. As part of this forum, we sometimes discuss medical issues and medications, and their effects on bone health in general. However, we cannot advise readers about specific medical issues in this forum. If you wish to obtain advice from Susan E. Brown, PhD, about your specific bone health and nutritional concerns, please visit our Consultations page. Other specific medical questions should be referred to your healthcare provider.

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