Your spine has many nerves, muscles and ligaments that serve as connections to areas throughout your body, so keeping your back in top condition is one of the best things you can do for both your back and your overall health. We’re going to expand on exercises to include and show you how and why they’re good for you. For now, let’s prepare a list.
1. Aerobic exercise
Aerobic exercise increases the flow of blood and nutrients to back structures which supports healing, and can decrease the stiffness in the back and joints that lead to back pain.
While many patients with back pain are able to participate in vigorous exercise like running or step aerobics, others find it easier to engage in low-impact exercise, which does not jar the spine.
Patients who regularly undertake aerobic exercise to condition the back will benefit in several ways:
- They have fewer episodes of low back pain, and will experience less pain when an episode occurs.
- They are also more likely to stay functional (e.g. continue working and carry on with recreational activities), whereas those patients with chronic low back pain who do not engage in aerobic exercise are more likely to experience the gradual loss of functional capabilities.
- It is easier to control weight or lose weight, decreasing the stress placed on the spine structures and joints.
- An increased production of endorphins after 30 or 40 minutes of exercise can combat pain. These bio-chemicals are the body’s natural painkiller, and frequent release of them can help patients reduce their reliance on pain medication.
- Endorphins can elevate mood and relieve symptoms of depression, a condition common in those with back pain or a back injury.
Many types of people, at many levels of fitness, who have begun doing Pilates exercises say they’ve seen improvements in range of motion, flexibility, circulation, posture, and abdominal strength — and decreases in back, neck and joint pain.
In the way that yoga, martial arts, Alexander Technique and Feldenkrais exercise builds personal awareness of mind, coordination, symmetry and posture, Pilates helps build a strong foundation and strong trunk or core. It reduces the chances of injury with exercise by coordinating muscle groups to work with and not against each other.
Pilates aims at building a stronger, more efficient body with all the right components of fitness. It does not necessarily promise a flatter tummy. As you get fitter and attain better posture, a flatter tummy may well be a side effect. Many exercises can be done on a floor mat without other equipment.
3. Weights and resistance
Resistance training is based on the principle that muscles of the body will work to overcome a resistance force when required to do so. Health benefits of resistance training include improved muscle strength and tone, healthy weight, increased bone density and strength.
A well-rounded fitness program includes strength training to improve bone, joint function, bone density, muscle, tendon and ligament strength, as well as aerobic exercise to improve your heart and lung fitness.
If you vary your resistance training program through the number of repetitions and sets performed, exercises undertaken and weights used, you will maintain any strength gains you make.
Lie on your back with knees bent and just your heels on the floor. Push your heels into the floor, squeeze your buttocks, and lift your hips off the floor until shoulders, hips, and knees are in a straight line. Hold about 6 seconds, and then slowly lower hips to the floor and rest for 10 seconds. Repeat 8 to 12 times. Avoid arching your lower back as your hips move upward. Avoid overarching by tightening your abdominal muscles prior and throughout the lift.
5. Pelvic tilts
You’ll feel your back pressing into the floor, and your hips and pelvis rocking back. Hold for 10 seconds while breathing in and out smoothly. Repeat 8 to 12 times.
6. Knee to Chest
Keep your lower back pressed to the floor, and hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Then lower your knee and repeat with the other leg. Do this 2 to 4 times for each leg.
7. Bird Dog
Start on your hands and knees, and tighten your stomach muscles. Lift and extend one leg behind you. Keep hips level. Hold for 5 seconds, and then switch to the other leg. Repeat 8 to 12 times for each leg, and try to lengthen the time you hold each lift. Try lifting and extending your opposite arm for each repetition. This exercise is a great way to learn how to stabilize the low back during movement of the arms and legs. While doing this exercise don’t let the lower back muscles sag. Only raise the limbs to heights where the low back position can be maintained.
8. Press-up Back Extensions
Lie on your stomach with your hands under your shoulders. Push with your hands so your shoulders begin to lift off the floor. If it’s comfortable for you, put your elbows on the floor directly under your shoulders and hold this position for several seconds.
9. Wall Sits
The wall-sit is a bit different from typical squats since you’re holding a static position for a certain period of time, rather than working through an entire range of motion. This is a great exercise you can do anywhere without any equipment to help you build endurance in the lower body.
Stand 10 to 12 inches from the wall, then lean back until your back is flat against the wall. Slowly slide down until your knees are slightly bent, pressing your lower back into the wall. Hold for a count of 10, then carefully slide back up the wall. Repeat 8 to 12 times.
10. Hamstring Stretches
Lie on your back and bend one knee. Loop a towel under the ball of your foot. Straighten your knee and slowly pull back on the towel. You should feel a gentle stretch down the back of your leg. Hold for at least 15 to 30 seconds. Do 2 to 4 times for each leg.
11. Partial Crunches
Partial crunches can help strengthen your back and stomach muscles. Lie with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
Cross arms over your chest or put hands behind your neck. Tighten stomach muscles and raise your shoulders off the floor.
Breathe out as you raise your shoulders. Don’t lead with your elbows or use arms to pull your neck off the floor. Hold for a second, then slowly lower back down. Repeat 8 to 12 times. Proper form prevents excessive stress on your low back. Your feet, tailbone, and lower back should remain in contact with the mat at all times.