Exercises for a Healthy Back

Back pain is a common complaint, especially for people older than 40. But, you can tame or prevent back pain by practicing good form and by doing exercises to strengthen your back two or three times a week.

But before you get started, you should talk with your health care provider to make sure these exercises are right for you.

When you do these or any type of back exercises, make sure you:

  • Use a rug or mat to lie on.

  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing. And,

  • Take off your shoes.

You should not feel any pain while doing these exercises. If you do, stop the exercise right away and call your health care provider.

Knee-to-Chest Stretch

Lie on your back with your knees bent. Put your feet flat on the floor and a pillow under your head.

Slowly lift one knee to your chest while keeping your other foot on the floor. Hold for five seconds. Keep breathing slowly and evenly then release.

Switch legs and repeat the exercise 10 times with each leg.

Bridge

Lie on your back with both knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Your heels should be close to your bottom. Put your arms on the floor at your sides.

Hold your belly in tight. Then slowly lift your hips into the air squeezing your buttocks together. Do NOT turn your head. Keep your chin tucked and look toward your belly.

Hold for five seconds. Keep breathing slowly and evenly, then release.

Repeat this exercise 10 times and work your way up to two sets.

Crunches

Lie on your back with both knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Fold your arms across your chest.

Tilt your pelvis so that your lower back is on the floor.

Tighten your belly muscles and use the muscles in your belly to lift your head and shoulders straight up. Stop when your shoulder blades come off the floor. Then slowly roll back down.

Don't hold your breath. Keep breathing slowly and evenly during the exercise.

Repeat this exercise 10 times and work your way up to three sets.

Press Up

Lie on your belly with your palms on the floor near your shoulders.

Look forward. Press down on your hands and gently raise your upper chest off the floor.

Hold this position for 10 seconds. Keep breathing slowly and evenly.

Repeat this exercise 10 times and work your way up to two sets.

Practicing Good Form

Moving your body correctly can help you protect your back throughout your day. Here are some tips for using good form for some common, everyday movements:

Sitting

Sit in chairs that support your back. Use a low-back support, if needed. Keep your knees a little higher than your hips. If necessary, use a low stool to raise your feet, so they are resting on a solid surface.

Standing

Bend your knees slightly and tighten the muscles in the front of your thigh to take stress off your lower back and knees. Wear shoes that support your feet. If you stand for long periods, shift most of your weight to one leg at a time. Switch legs often.

Lying Down

When lying on your side, bend your knees and place a pillow between them. If you lie on your back, put a pillow under your knees. Avoid lying on your belly.

Lifting

When lifting an object from below your waist, stand with your feet wide and a slight bend at the hips and knees. Squat down and grab the object. Tighten your belly as you lift and keep your back flat. Keep heavy items close to your body, and don't carry them on one side all the time. Don't hold your breath.

Things to Remember

Regular exercise and good form can help you prevent back pain.

Keep breathing slowly and evenly during exercise. Don't hold your breath.

Talk to your health care provider before starting a new exercise program.

What We Have Learned

Regular exercise and good form can help prevent back pain.
True or False?
The answer is true. Most people can prevent back pain with regular exercise and good form.

If I feel pain while exercising, I should just work through it.
True or False?
The answer is false. Stop any exercise if you feel pain.