Today, the International Osteoporosis Foundation has announced #LiftOffForBoneHealth, an exciting new online public awareness campaign in cooperation with the European Space Agency (ESA) and celebrated ESA Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti. Samantha has returned to the International Space Station for her second mission, Minerva, and will spend 4 months in space. 

Osteoporosis is a chronic disease that causes bones to become less dense, weaker, and more prone to painful and life-changing fractures. Although most common in postmenopausal women, it can affect both sexes and people at a younger age. Bone loss is also one of the major consequences of microgravity in long-duration space flights and can seriously undermine the health of astronauts after returning to Earth. In fact, astronauts might lose more bone mass during one month in space than women do on Earth within one year after menopause.  

One of the main countermeasures for bone loss is exercise. Establishing an effective training program is essential for the future of long-duration spaceflights as well as for multimodal osteoporosis prevention and treatment on Earth. And, just like astronauts need to train in preparation for their space mission, younger people need to ‘prepare’ for older age and the higher risk of osteoporosis by strengthening their bones and muscles through a bone-healthy lifestyle. 

Through the #LiftOffForBoneHealth campaign, Samantha Cristoforetti will advocate for bone health by encouraging people all over the world to engage in regular weight-bearing and resistance exercises that will help them build and maintain strong bones for life:

“As an astronaut, I know that a tailored exercise program before, during, and after my space mission will be critical to keeping me strong and fit. Without intensive load-bearing and resistance exercises designed to counteract bone loss, an astronaut can lose one to two percent of bone density every month while in space. People on Earth face a similar risk as they age, and as a result, one out of three women and one out of five men over the age of 50 go on to experience a bone fracture due to osteoporosis.”

“That’s why it's so important that we all make bone and muscle strength our personal mission, and why I hope to inspire people of all ages, and especially younger women, to stay fit through regular load-bearing exercises as part of a bone-healthy lifestyle.”

IOF President Professor Cyrus Cooper thanked the European Space Agency, stating:

“Prevention is always better than cure – and we know that a bone-healthy lifestyle throughout life helps reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis and suffering life-changing fractures at an older age. On behalf of IOF, I would like to thank the European Space Agency and ESA Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti for their participation in this important public health campaign which will serve to highlight the importance of weight-bearing and resistance exercise as a critical cornerstone of osteoporosis prevention.”

“In the coming months, we look forward to sharing Samantha’s inspiring words in 10 languages with the public at large, including through our national osteoporosis patient societies in all regions of the world.”

Weight-bearing (or ‘loading’) and resistance exercises are the most effective types of physical activity to build bone and muscle strength. Weight-bearing exercises include activities like jogging, stair-climbing, rope-skipping, dancing, or sports like tennis. Use of elastic resistance bands or doing bodyweight exercises, such as push-ups and pull-ups, as well as using weight machines at the gym, or free weights such as dumbbells – all of these activities are very important ways to build stronger muscles and bones. Together with a balanced, calcium- and protein-rich diet, avoidance of smoking and excessive alcohol intake, and early recognition of risk factors, all individuals can ‘lift-off for bone health’ and a fracture-free future. 

It's important that people ensure that an exercise program is right for them, based on their fracture and fall risk, health conditions, fitness, strength, and balance. Anyone who has fragile bones due to osteoporosis should consider consulting a healthcare or fitness professional who can help devise a tailored, safe, and highly effective exercise program. 


About IOF
The International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) is the world’s largest nongovernmental organization dedicated to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of osteoporosis and related musculoskeletal diseases. IOF members include scientific experts as well as 300 patient societies and medical and research organizations in all regions of the world. Together, the IOF network works to make fracture prevention and healthy mobility a global health care priority. @iofbonehealth