Exercise For a Healthy Back

Blaine MitchelAll, Back Pain, PreventionLeave a Comment

Barely a day goes by without a health study citing the value of exercise to our well-being. It helps preserve a healthy spine and it’s vital for rehabbing from back pain and injuries. Even those with chronic back pain appreciate the significance of good physical conditioning. For most people who have a common strain/sprain, exercise will help relieve pain and lower the chances of it reoccurring.

Obviously, exercise is no guarantee that your back will never hurt. Occasionally a wrong move or too much exercise can actually be the source of a problem. But the bottom line is that if you want your body to feel good, you must exercise it. When you get moving, you’ll experience the feel-good benefits for yourself.

Every person’s back issue is unique to them. We advise talking to your doctors and/ or physio therapist prior to any exercises. We’ll give you an overview of what to do and why and some strategies on how to incorporate physical activity into your life.


How Much Exercise Do You Really Need?

When it comes to exercise, what’s the magic number? According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 30 to 60 minutes a day on most days will help improve strength, increase energy, decrease stress, and help you sleep. All that just from exercise!

Exercising in a pool is a good place to start, as the buoyancy of water helps reduce impact while also providing resistance. Most experts in back pain agree that there is no better exercise for the back than swimming.

Exercise really is the remedy for so many things which ail us as a nation: obesity; heart disease; high blood pressure; and, of course, back pain. However, there are plenty of different ways to get and stay in shape. The key is to find something which you enjoy or at least can tolerate until you start feeling the advantages. Depending on your starting point, it can take some time. And you might to give a number of different things a try until you find something for you. But truth is, once you get into the routine, you’ll feel better physically and mentally. And, of course, there’s the brilliant side effect of looking better, too!

Medical studies have shown that short bursts of activity can be very advantageous. Have a 15-minute sit-up/push-up/stretch routine in the morning; take a brisk 15-minute walk before lunch; and then have an evening stroll and stretch after dinner—and you’ve just inserted a comfortable 45 minutes of exercise into your day. Simple!

The common issue is that some people hear the word “exercise” and want to run away squealing. You don’t have to be a gym rat to be in great physical condition. Don’t even consider it to be exercise, if it helps, consider it your daily physical activity. This can be taking your dog for a walk, gardening, shovelling snow, or washing the car. The important part is moving your body. And for back pain, a few key stretches and muscle strengthening moves should be a part of your routine.


Balanced Muscles for a Healthy Back

To put it simply, muscles move and stabilize bones. To do their job well, muscles should also be conditioned in a balanced manner. A huge amount of strain/sprain back pain is the result of a muscle imbalance. Either a muscle suddenly got pulled too hard or a repetitive movement pattern produced an imbalance.

If you sit at a computer all day for your job, your shoulders and spine will roll forward (this is common), the muscles in the front of your torso become shortened and those in the back are stretched. This is why it feels so good to stretch backward after sitting all day. You are opening tightened muscles in your chest area. Besides stretching, it’s also important to strengthen muscles. Better-conditioned abdominals and lower and upper back muscles will facilitate the maintenance of correct posture. Strong back muscles will help you keep your shoulders more open. Balanced muscles and good posture will assist in the prevention of fatigue, back and neck pain.


What Kind of Exercise?

For a well-balanced, functional body, you need three kinds of exercise: aerobic, strength building, and stretching. How you go about these is up to you, but if you don’t usually work out, it’s a good idea to invest in a few sessions with a personal trainer or get exercises from your physio. Poor exercise form is a common source of back pain in itself.

Aerobic exercise increases your heart rate; strength builds muscles, and stretching increases flexibility. This trio is a perfect for creating a strong and happy back and body for life. We’ll give you a taste of some good options to try.


Your target heart rate varies depending on your age and fitness level. If you don’t have a heart rate monitor, you can calculate your target heart rate with this formula:

  1. 220 (beats per minute) minus age = maximum heart rate.
  2. Maximum heart rate multiplied by the intensity level = target heart rate.

For instance, a 50-year-old woman exercising at 60 percent maximum would use the following calculation:

  1. 220 – 50 = 170 (maximum heart rate)
  2. 170 × 60% = 102 (target heart rate)

Physical activity at 60 to 70 percent of the maximum heart rate is considered moderate-intensity exercise, which is the advised level at which to start an exercise program.


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