As summer approaches, the weather is getting warmer and this leads to wanting to get out and enjoy the beautiful outdoors. However, if you’re living with or trying to avoid back pain, you might also end up avoiding outdoor summer activities. Fortunately, we’re here to help! There are plenty of great activities you can participate in to celebrate summer while still protecting your spine health.
Walking is an activity that is known to be good for anyone living with back pain as well as anyone trying to prevent the onset of back pain. In a study of over 5,000 adults, it was found that those who walk are less likely to suffer from back pain. It’s an activity that helps strengthen the core muscles, which will help protect your back from pain by reducing stress. Now that summer is almost here and you’re likely excited to participate in outdoor activities, walking is a great, low impact exercise for anyone with back pain
Over 200 muscles are used when you walk, even muscles in your pelvic and spine area, which is part of what makes this activity such an effective form of exercise. It is low impact, but can also burn over 250 calories in about 30 minutes. Apart from engaging your muscles, walking can also help relieve pain through the release of endorphins. It also increases your spine’s flexibility and mobility, helps increase circulation, and can even help in hydrating your spinal discs, allowing them to be stronger and more effective. Walking can help your spine, and specifically your spinal discs, through this increased blood flow. Increased blood flow allows nutrients to get to your spine more efficiently, and when the soft tissue surrounding and in your spine is properly nourished, spine function becomes more efficient.
If you want to begin walking regularly in an effort to prevent or ease back pain, you’ll need to walk with proper posture, otherwise, you risk placing extra stress on your back. In order to practice proper posture, your spine should be in a neutral position, making sure that you’re not leaning forward or backward, and your abdominal muscles should be working as well. This posture, and especially engaging your abdominal muscles, will help protect your lower back while walking. You should also walk with your eyes forward and avoid looking down as you walk, as these are two common posture mistakes.
Swimming is an activity that is probably most strongly associated with summer and good weather, so what better way is there to welcome summer than with some swimming? In addition to being an activity that’ll help keep you cool, it also works out your body very efficiently, while placing essentially no impact on your spine.
If you already suffer from back pain, swimming will give you a way to exercise without putting stress on your spine. This is because your body’s buoyancy cancels out gravity’s force, allowing very little stress to be placed on your joints. Swimming will also allow you to work muscles you may not normally use, making this exercise very effective. Swimming also effectively works out almost all major muscle groups, and it does so bilaterally. This means that the stress of the exercise is distributed evenly among all the muscles, making this exercise very low impact. Further, swimming will work out your back, leg, and core muscles, which will increase your spine’s stability and allow your back to function at its most optimal level.
However, swimming laps for days on end can get repetitive and potentially even boring, but there are other activities that can be done in the pool to add some variety to your workout.
We know that walking is a great exercise, and it’s even more effective when done in a pool because the water provides resistance that will require your muscles to work even harder than they normally would while walking. Just make sure you’re walking in water that is at least chest-high, and you’ll get great results from this activity. To work even more muscles, you can also swing your arms while you walk so that those muscles are exerted as well. You can even try walking sideways or backward not only for some variation, but to exercise different muscles as well.
Water aerobics is another great way to exercise in a pool without having to swim back and forth. Like walking, water aerobics has the added benefit of water resistance in order to push your muscles to work harder without placing added stress on your body. Water aerobics can also improve your flexibility, so this is definitely an activity that you will want to try.
If you do choose to swim laps as your form of water exercise, make sure that you learn proper technique and form, or else you may end up injuring yourself and potentially causing the back pain that you’re trying to avoid.
Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) is another great water activity that will provide the work out you need while easing your back pain or preventing back pain. It is a full-body workout that does many things at once. It strengthens core muscles, improves cardio fitness, improves balance, and increases flexibility all while being a low-impact exercise.
For some background, SUP is a very fast-growing boardsport that has a background in Africa, South America, and ancient Polynesian culture. Historians believe that this activity was originally used as a form of transportation as well as a leisure activity. However, SUP as we know it today, took off in the 2000s when it was popularized by professional surfers as a way to train when waters were too calm to surf in.
The great thing about SUP is that it can be done in calm oceans, lakes, rivers, canals, inland waterways, or even a large swimming pool. While SUP was recently popularized by surfers who likely used surfboards for the activity, there are many different types of SUP boards that can be used to different purposes. There are paddleboards for racing, surfing, flat-water cruising, and even crossover models.
For those unfamiliar with SUP, it involves standing in an upright position on the center of the board while the user gently places the blade of the paddle in the water before beginning to pull. Because the focus seems to be on paddling, many beginners make the mistake of focusing on their arms, but the key is to focus on your core because that is what will keep you stable and balanced. Keeping your abdomen engaged will build up your endurance and will also give you better balance on the board.
This activity is great for people of all ages and all fitness levels, so don’t be afraid to try it this summer.
Cycling, when done on smooth flat roads, is a fairly low-impact exercise that many people with or attempting to prevent back pain enjoy. However, there are tips that you will want to follow in order to prevent pain or discomfort from poor posture.
First, you will need to make sure that the height of your bike seat is appropriate for you. Many people cycle with their seat too low, which leads to under-extending while pedaling, and can potentially cause pain in your knee. Your seat should be high enough that your knee is still slightly bent when your foot is at the bottom of your pedal stroke. You should also make sure that your arms and torso are positioned in a 45-degree angle over your bike. If you don’t cycle in this position, your back may become sore from reaching for the handlebars.
If you’re not an avid cyclist, you will want to ease your way into it. Start slowly, and allow your body to build up endurance for longer and longer rides over time, rather than starting off with a long and intense ride your first time out. It will also be best to cycle in a way that is measured so that you avoid burning out or become fatigued in the middle of your ride. A good rule of thumb is that the first third of your ride should be a warm-up, you should settle in a rhythm for the second, and the final third should be when you put in all your effort.
If you do feel back pain while cycling, it may be due to a mechanical reason. It’s common for cyclists to ride with bikes that aren’t the right size for them, and this can lead to pain or soreness. Lacking flexibility and core strength can also lead to pain, so it’s important to make sure that your exercising in other ways besides cycling as well. You should also be mindful of avoiding favoring one side of your body while cycling, as this will likely result in back pain as a result of a spine imbalance.
Kayaking is an activity that has its roots in North America, where the Inuits first built and used kayaks to hunt. These kayaks were made from animal skins stitched together and placed over a whalebone frame, and were made buoyant by seal bladders that were filled with air and tucked into the front and rear ends of the kayak. Today, kayaks are generally made of fiberglass, wood, plastic, or Kevlar, and are designed for a variety of environments, such as calm lakes, whitewater rivers, and the ocean.
Kayaking is a great activity because it allows you to get a high energy workout with minimal impact on joints while improving your cardiovascular health and strengthening your core, arm, back, shoulder, and chest muscles.
If you’re a beginner, you should pick a calm, small lake or pond to kayak in. You should also be able to see the opposite shoreline, and will ideally have little to no powerboat traffic. The more powerboat traffic in the area, the more unnatural waves you will have to contend with, and if you’re exercising with back pain, this could aggravate your pain.
You should also begin with short trips in order to build your endurance. This is to avoid becoming burned out before you’ve paddled back to shore. It’s also important to be fully aware of your limits so that you understand how long you can paddle for before needing to head back to shore in order to avoid fatigue.
As long you take things slowly and work toward building up your endurance, kayaking is a great activity to get some exercise without placing back pain causing stress on your spine.
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