The CDC recommends that adults need at least 150 minutes of moderately intense aerobic exercise every week as well as at least two days per week of muscle-strengthening activity. The benefits of exercise are countless, but in your quest to get and stay fit, make sure you don’t injure yourself or exacerbate an existing injury. Here are some suggestions to help you protect your back and spine as you exercise.
Exercising is the single best thing you can do to improve your spine health. Activities as simple as daily walks can make a tremendous difference in both your spinal health and your overall health. If you have an existing spinal injury, check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.
Stand or Sit Up Straight
Whether you’re walking, running, cycling, dancing, or skiing, maintain good posture. Properly alignment reduces stress and strain on the spine. Hold your head up, keep your shoulders back, lift your chest, gently tighten your abdominal muscles, and maintain a small hollow in the lower back.
Get Good Shoes
Make sure your workout shoes are supportive. Your shoe choice doesn’t just affect your feet: proper support in your feet and ankles can also reduce stress in the knees, hips, and back. Generally, running or workout shoes need to be replaced every 300 to 500 miles. Pay attention to how the shoe feels, and if it doesn’t have the same support and bounce it once had, it’s time for a replacement.
Avoid Too Much High Impact
High impact activities, such as running and jumping, create impact on the feet, ankles, legs, hips, and lower back. Avoid excessive amounts of high impact exercise, and make sure your shoes are supportive, which reduces the amount of shock those high impact activities can have on the spine.
A Strong Core Means a Strong Back
Any exercise that strengthens the abdominal muscles and the core will also strengthen and protect the back. The muscles of the back support the spine at the back of your body, and the muscles of the abdomen support the spine in the front of the body. Instead of crunches, try planks. Hold the top of a push-up position for a count of five or ten, and repeat. Over time, build up to thirty seconds or a minute. Many Pilates and yoga classes also focus on core strength.
Overworking can happen in different ways. First, don’t expect to get in shape in a week’s time. Be patient, exercise a little bit each day, and gradually work up to longer and longer durations. Chart your progress and be proud of your accomplishments. Second, listen to your body and take it easy as you exercise. If a certain movement or gesture hurts your body, stop doing it altogether or modify your movements to alleviate the pain.
Work on Flexibility
Healthy spines are both strong and flexible. Don’t forget to stretch after working out, which maintains your spine’s flexibility and helps reduce the risk of injury.
If you already have a spinal injury, take note: avoid crunches, toe touches, or any other activity that puts unnecessary pressure or twisting action on the spine. Any type of stretch or posture that requires you to twist the spine or bend forward while maintaining straight legs should be avoided. If your back is healthy, use caution when engaging in these exercises.