Walking for This Long Each Day May “Significantly” Reduce Osteoporosis Risk, Says New Study

Updated: May 28, 2024

For three years scientists followed walkers and non-walkers and found osteoporosis risk drop by half for a specific group.

At any age, building stronger bones yields obvious advantages—but especially because national data have suggested that bone breaks in older age can be associated with earlier death, being intentional about strengthening your bones as you age can be one of the best ways to ensure a long life.

Getting plenty of bone-fortifying minerals, like calcium, along with strength-training a few times a week, are two strategies for making your bones stronger. Now, new research suggests that walking outside for a certain amount of time each day can also protect you from years of back pain, poor posture, and brittle bones.

A May 2024 study published in Osteoporosis International gathered data on 24,700 older adults’ outdoor walking habits, dividing them into four groups: People who did not walk outside daily, people who walked outside for 30 minutes or less each day, people who walked outside for 30 to 60 minutes each day, and people who walked outside for more than an hour each day.
After 37 months, the researchers followed up with participants and found “a significant negative correlation exists between an extended period of daily outdoor walking and osteoporosis incidence risk.” To translate: The longer participants walked each day, the less likely they were to be diagnosed with osteoporosis.
Of the almost 25,000 participants, 4,586 cases of osteoporosis were identified at the follow-up. Of the group who did not walk outside each day, there was a rate of 20 osteoporosis cases per 100 participants. The group who walked for 30 minutes or less each day had a rate of 19 cases per 100 participants, while the group who walked outside for 30 to 60 minutes saw incidence rates of 15. Those walking more than an hour daily saw 10 osteoporosis cases per 100 participants.
Researchers also found a “declining trend” of osteoporosis risk among participants with both low and high genetic predispositions—meaning that whether or not osteoporosis runs in the family, a daily walk could help strengthen bones. Note that if you do have a family history of osteoporosis, squeezing in an hour of strolling each day could be particularly helpful: The researchers found that participants with a high genetic risk who walked outside for more than 60 minutes experienced the biggest drop in their risk.
Whether it’s to protect your bones, foster your mental wellness or just to get out of the house for a bit during the day, there are major health benefits of walking outside. Some experts suggest starting with a shorter walk and gradually increasing the duration over time…and, don’t forget a good post-walk stretch.