If there was something you could do that would give you more energy, boost your mood, prevent many chronic diseases and health conditions, plus help you sleep better and live an overall healthier life, would you do it? Sounds great, doesn’t it? There is something that can do all those things - it’s exercise! Exercising regularly can give you all those benefits and more yet still it isn’t something most Americans do. Exercise is often seen as a chore, something we should do but don’t want to do. Despite its many proven health benefits and health conditions it improves or prevents, exercise is something many people do not take the time to do or just don’t want to do.
The CDC Physical Activity Guidelines recommend adults 18 and older aim for 150 to 300 minutes of moderate exercise (brisk walking for example) or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous (running for example) exercise each week. They also recommend adults have at least two sessions of resistance muscle building exercises and that older adults should incorporate balance enhancing exercises as well. 150 minutes sounds overwhelming at first but it breaks down to 30 minutes five days a week. Or it can be broken down into smaller bouts of exercise like a 10-minute walk three times a day five days a week.
According to a 2020 National Health Interview Survey, only 46.9% of adults aged 18 and over met the Physical Activity Guidelines for aerobic activity and only 24.2% of adults aged 18 and over met the Guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity. We hopefully know the many health benefits of exercise so why don’t over 50% of Americans do it at all? Then there are those who are faithful to a workout routine and exercise on a consistent basis. How did they get to that point? How do you make working out a habit? How do you get exercise to be a regular part of your life? Here are 10 ideas to get motivated to exercise and stick with it.
- Find Your Why - You can’t always rely on external factors, such as an upcoming vacation, to motivate you. Defining your “why” for exercise will give you a personal or emotional investment in your goals. It could be to get up and down off the floor and run around and play with your kids or grandkids. It could be to remain living independently as you age. Your why could be because the mental health boost is what you look forward to after each workout. Everyone’s reason why they are exercising could be different. Find yours and remind yourself of it when you want to skip your workout.
- Schedule Your Workouts - Just like any important appointment, put your time for physical activity on your calendar. Treat it like an appointment that you can’t cancel without a fee!
- Make it as Convenient as Possible – We are much more likely to do something if it is convenient. Having a hard time getting to the gym? Identify the problem. Is your gym too far away from your home or work? Maybe they have a different location. Is it too difficult to remember to take your gym bag with you when you go to work? Keep it packed with the necessities, put in clean gym clothes as soon as you take dirty clothes out of it and then immediately put it in your car, so your bag is in there for the next trip to the gym. One person I worked out with slept in her workout clothes, so she was all ready for her morning workout when she woke up. Make it as easy as possible! By identifying the problem, you can determine a potential solution. Make it as easy as possible to do the thing you want to do instead of the thing you are trying not to do. It won’t always be completely convenient but making it easier for you will make you more likely to stick with it.
- Make Exercise Fun – There are so many things to do that can give you the benefits of exercise that you shouldn’t feel like you are stuck doing something you absolutely hate. Try different types of physical activity to find what you enjoy most. Hiking, pickleball, dancing, swimming, and group fitness classes are just a few ways to get your movement in. Find what you like best and don’t be afraid to keep trying new things to mix it up.
- Find An Accountability Partner- Having someone with you can help make exercising more fun and it can also help you to be more likely to do it on a regular basis. You will be less likely to skip that workout class if your friend is there waiting for you. Or maybe you have a weekly lunch with a friend that you can start walking before or after.
- Pause, don’t stop - Restarting is harder than starting. If you derail from your new exercise routine, take a step back and pause. Don’t think all is lost because you missed a few days of your new habits. You didn’t stop, you just paused and are able to start right back up where you left off. This happens to everyone, and it will to you as well. Plan for it and know what you will do when you do get off track. Building healthier routines is not all or nothing, and missing a week of workouts or one weekend of unhealthy eats doesn’t make you a failure. It makes you human and you can unpause and get back to your workout routine as soon as you can.
- Track Your Progress – The adage “you manage what you measure” rings true for many. Tracking your fitness can be a good way to stick with a healthier habit. Some might find it helpful to write in a journal after each workout about what they did and how they felt. Looking back at what you did and how it felt 6 weeks ago can help you see how far you have progressed and be a motivator to keep going. Keeping a calendar or using a don’t break the chain habit tracker can be motivating as well. Once you see your streak of keeping up your new habit, you won’t want to break it! Or if you prefer data, use a fitness tracker to track your workouts, steps, or other health related metrics. (Read more about this in my post about fitness trackers.).
- Hire a Personal Trainer – Read about why you should hire a personal trainer in my last blog post. A trainer can help make your workouts more fun and effective. Plus, you are less likely to skip your workout when your trainer is waiting for you.
- Make Time for Rest – It’s true when they say you can have too much of a good thing. Working out intensely every day, or doing too much too soon, can take a toll on your body. Not only can it make you not want to work out regularly after some time of doing too much, but it could also cause injury or lead to overtraining. Make sure at least one day of the week is devoted to active rest (like stretching, gentle yoga or an easy walk) or complete rest. Consult a personal trainer if you are unsure of what the right amount of exercise would be for you at this time.
- Mix it Up – One training plan can work temporarily but to keep your fitness progressing, it is best to change up your routine in some way after some time. Making slight changes to your routine can keep you challenged and bust any boredom that might come up with your workouts as well. The changes can be a simple as adding more or doing less repetitions or using more weight to your usual exercises or it could be trying a new workout class.
Exercise is an important part of a healthy life. Experiment with ways to get it in your regular schedule and get it done consistently. Need help? Have questions? Contact a LivRite trainer for a fitness assessment today!
You have most likely heard of a personal trainer but what do they do? Why would you or should you, hire one? A personal trainer is a fitness professional who works one-on-one with a training client (or a small group of clients) to create and implement a fitness regimen. A personal trainer will create a workout program for you, then work with you individually showing you how to do each exercise and will insure you have proper form. Personal training is a great option for beginners who need help getting started as well as for experienced exercisers who want to push themselves further. Trainers don’t just simply give you a workout program, there are other aspects to having a personal trainer that make it even more invaluable.
Trainers will create the right plan for YOU. The first step with a personal trainer is a fitness assessment or a consultation. During this assessment, the trainer will ask questions about your past and current workout routines, health issues (including injuries and current medications) and your goals and objectives. The trainer will also conduct some postural, movement and overall fitness assessments that will help them create a personalized workout for you.
After getting to know you and helping to define your health and wellness goals, your trainer will create an exercise plan specific to you and your goals, preferences, schedule, experience, and constraints. They take the results of the assessment into account when creating your personalized workout so you won’t be doing any exercises that could potentially be detrimental. Your trainer can also help you determine healthful habits right for you to implement that will help with your goal.
There isn’t just one perfect workout program for everyone. We are all unique with our own fitness levels, injuries, and goals. Your trainer will create a workout plan specifically for you. For example, workouts will look different if you want to work on muscular endurance vs. muscular strength. Or, if you have a knee injury, your trainer won’t include exercises that would exacerbate the issue. Your trainer will create your training plan based on you, what you are looking to achieve and will help you get there.
A trainer will help you set realistic goals. Many people come to the gym with a big goal of losing 100 pounds or a vague goal like getting healthier. Research says that goals that are most likely to be achieved are SMART goals. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, and time bound. Setting health and fitness SMART goals can be difficult to do when you are first starting out and your personal trainer can work with you to make your goals SMART and therefore more achievable! An example of a SMART goal would be to do strength training three times a week for the next three months. It is specific (you know what you are going to do and how often you will do it), measurable (this is easy to track on a calendar or in an app), attainable (you can make time for a workout three times a week) and time bound (you will do this for at least the next 3 months).
A personal trainer can help set a realistic timeline to achieve results. Unfortunately, many exercisers quit their program before its effectiveness is proven. By setting expectations, you and your trainer can see yourself through the full program and see the full potential.
A trainer can boost your knowledge and confidence. There is so much information about health and wellness out there it is hard to know what is true and what isn’t. A trainer can provide educated advice about fitness and exercise. The gym itself can be intimidating and confusing as well. So many machines, it is hard to know what to do and how to do it. Your trainer will show you how to use the equipment and explain what things you could do and point out anything that might not be a good idea for you to do. They can give you the knowledge and confidence you need to feel comfortable in the gym.
Trainers will reduce the chance of injury. A personal trainer will perform an initial assessment determining any imbalances and any weaknesses. They take the results of the assessment, as well as any injuries you may have, into account when creating your personalized workout so you won’t be doing any exercises that could potentially be detrimental. Another bonus of working with a personal trainer is that they won’t just tell you what to do, they will help you through each exercise, explaining how to perform it correctly and watch you to insure you have proper form to help prevent any potential injuries, and so that you get the most out of each exercise.
Trainers provide accountability. Personal trainers also help keep you accountable. Health and fitness goals take time and sticking with your plan consistently is essential. Your trainer will keep you accountable for getting to the gym and getting your workout done. They also will help you navigate when life gets in the way (because it will!) and help keep you on track when you get thrown a curve ball, changing up your plan if necessary. Some days it is tempting to skip the gym. Knowing you have a scheduled session, and that your trainer is waiting for you, will get you there even when motivation doesn’t.
A trainer will bring motivation. We all tend to do more if someone is watching us, and personal training is no exception. Having someone there to cheer, encourage and challenge you will help you do more each exercise session. A trainer can help you set weekly goals, then check in regularly to see how you're doing, keeping you motivated and pushing toward your goals.
Trainers can make exercise FUN! Most personal trainers will learn what you like to do and don’t like to do and will do their best to make the workout both effective and fun!
Don’t hesitate to meet with a few trainers if you don’t feel a connection with the first one you contact. Like with medical providers, spend a bit of time finding one that matches your goals and values and look at it as a long-term investment in yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask about the trainer’s certifications and work history. The personal trainer should at least be certified by an organization that is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) such as The American Council on Exercise (ACE), International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), or National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). The certification process teaches individuals proper training techniques, the science behind training the human body and how to optimize workouts without causing injury. Some trainers will also have a specialization in which they have received additional training such as training older adults, training for specific sports or bodybuilding.
Your trainer will give you a customized workout plan, help you to perform it safely and keep you consistent and progressing with your plan. These are just some of the important things your trainer will do that will help you become your healthiest you and reach your goals. Hiring a personal trainer is a great investment in your overall health. Get a complimentary fitness assessment with one of the trainers at LivRite today!
Exercise and physical activity improve our physical health through cardiovascular workouts and strength training to build and maintain muscle mass. It also improves our immune system function and helps to prevent many chronic diseases, condition, and injuries among other physical benefits. Exercise is also a known mood booster with many mental health benefits. The Mayo Clinic states that depression and anxiety symptoms often improve with exercise and can keep them at bay once they have lessened or gone away. Research hasn’t shown just one clear way that exercise works to help increase our happiness but there are many proven benefits to exercise that help improve both our mental health as well as our physical health.
“When you exercise, it increases endorphins, dopamine, adrenaline and endocannabinoid — these are all brain chemicals associated with feeling happy, feeling confident, feeling capable, feeling less anxiety and stress and even less physical pain.”
Dr. Kelly McGonical
Exercise Gives You Endorphins
Elle Woods, the main character in the Legally Blond movie played by Reese Witherspoon, has a famous line, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” While this was part of a speech when the character is proving that a woman didn’t shoot her husband (“Because happy people don’t shoot their husbands. They just don’t.”) you get the idea, it is proven that exercise can release the mood enhancing hormones endorphins that help to relieve pain, reduce stress, and improve your sense of well-being. There are other ways to boost your endorphins as well like meditation, massage and laughing. Endorphins aren’t the only hormone that exercise can produce in the body to help your mental health.
Exercise Can Boost Dopamine and Serotonin Levels
Dopamine and serotonin are two more hormones that make us feel happier and less stressed. The most commonly used antidepressants work by increasing serotonin levels in the brain. One natural way to increase these hormones is by working out. When you exercise, your body releases more tryptophan, the amino acid your brain uses to make serotonin. This boost in serotonin (along with other endorphins and dopamine) is why some people may get that happy feeling known as a “runner’s high” after an intense workout. It is important to note that you might not get an intense euphoric feeling (“runner’s high”) after your workout, but you will still get the increased feel-good hormone levels and an overall mood boost.
“If you are in a bad mood go for a walk. If you are still in a bad mood go for another walk.”
Exercise Can Decrease Stress Levels
Physical activity helps to decrease or regulate stress hormones like cortisol. When stressed, our bodies increase our cortisol levels which can cause inflammation and when they remain elevated, can lead to chronic stress and anxiety. Chronic stress can take a toll on you both physically and mentally. According to the American Heart Association, physical signs of stress can be headaches or trouble sleeping and can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease. Emotional signs of stress can be feeling anxious or depressed or both. Stress can also make you feel cranky or forgetful.
Regular physical activity can help to reduce stress which in turn may relieve tension, anxiety, and depression. Any kind of exercise or physical activity can help. Walking, pickleball, a workout class, biking, swimming, yoga, gardening, strength training or dancing are all possible options. Find something (or several things) you enjoy and will do on a regular basis.
“I do have to take care of myself, not only because I’m in the movies, just for mental health reasons. I exercise for me. You know, maybe it would be nice to not have to do that in order to feel good, but I do. I feel like I have to, to feel good. To clear my head and all of that, so.”
Exercise Can Increase Self-Image and Self-Esteem
Exercise can increase your confidence as you try new things, get better at exercises or a sport or reach new goals. For example, someone who works for weeks to build their upper body strength to complete a push up or a pull up will feel great once they achieve that goal. Or crossing the finish line of a 5k after working hard to train to be able to finish that race. These feelings of self-mastery can boost your self-esteem which in turns reduces stress, anxiety, and depression symptoms.
Exercise not only changes your body, it changes your mind, your attitude and your mood.
Exercise Can Be a Good Distraction
One of the ways that researchers think exercise can help our mental health is the Distraction Hypothesis. Doing some kind of physical activity requires some focus and can help take your mind off any worries you may have. If the activity involves repetitive motions, it will take the focus from your mind and into the rhythm of your movements. This will give you many of the same benefits of meditation, like calmness and clarity. It also reduces the stress hormone, cortisol.
Exercise Can Provide Social Support
Connection with others is an integral part of our health, physically and mentally. A low level of social interaction was found to be as harmful to one’s lifespan as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Having positive relationships with others could influence personal behaviors that influence your health. For example, your spouse or a friend may encourage you to eat healthier and go for walks. Other studies confirm that having social relationships can positively affect our mental health as well. Having gone through the recent pandemic, most of can relate to the fact that less social interaction can contribute to loneliness, feelings of isolation and feeling depressed.
Exercising is a great way to find or create social connections. Joining a gym, a recreational pickleball league, a running group or group exercise class can boost our connectedness with others by talking with others in the group, sharing feedback, using friendly competition, and feeling like you are part of something. Physical activities can create events where you connect with others which increases our feelings of connection and improves our emotional wellbeing.
How Much Exercise Should You Do?
Adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 1/2 hours) a week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, according to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. A study found that adults who completed 150 minutes of brisk walking per week had a 25% lower risk of depression when compared with adults who did not exercise. Those who walked for 75 minutes a week had an 18% lower risk of depression. Higher physical activity levels only offered minor additional benefits according to the researchers.
For your overall health, the American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (think walking or a leisurely bike ride) five days a week PLUS strength training twice a week. Or at least 20 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity (like jogging or a challenging bike ride) three days a week PLUS strength training twice a week. The Centers for Disease Control offers more detailed guidelines.
Don’t let these guidelines intimidate you, even 10-minute exercise sessions a couple times a day have been shown to help you get the effects without it taking over your schedule. Find a way to work movement into your daily routine even in short bursts. Any type of exercise for any length of time done regularly can increase both your physical and mental health.
To start exercising when you are experiencing mental health problems can feel difficult, or even impossible. Start small and start with something that you usually enjoy. Keep reminding yourself that you will feel better from exercise, both long and short term.
Exercise Isn’t a Replacement for Other Treatments for Mental Health If Needed
If you feel overwhelmed, unable to cope, or that stress is affecting how you function every day, consider connecting with a mental health professional. Whether it’s a social worker, pastoral counselor, marriage and family therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, or another trained professional, getting connected to a professional can be a first step to feeling better.
If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org.
Maximize your workouts with your nutrition! What to eat before and after your workout for the best results.
Exercise has many benefits on its own, but when paired with a healthy balanced diet, the results from your workouts and your overall health will be even better. By diet, I don’t mean a prescribed way of eating temporarily to lose weight. Wikipedia sums up the two meanings of the word diet nicely, “In nutrition, diet is the sum of food consumed by a person or other organism. The word diet often implies the use of specific intake of nutrition for health or weight-management reasons.” In this post, when I use the word diet, I mean the kinds of foods a person usually eats, not the second definition of a restricted or specific diet plan. Those restrictive and/or temporary diet plans tend to become an unhealthy on and off pattern where you may lose weight but then gain it all back plus some when it is over. Plus, you are usually miserable while doing it. (Read our post on nutrition, exercise and weight loss for more information on what to focus on in your diet if you would like to lose weight.) Learning to always have an overall healthy diet is best for your health and helps to get the most out of your strength training and cardio workouts.
Our bodies need the three macronutrients – carbohydrates (carbs), protein, and fat. To feel our best, we should ensure that most of the time we are focusing on quality carbs like whole grains and vegetables, lean proteins like chicken, turkey, fish, or soy products and heart-healthy unsaturated fats like those found in olive oil and avocados. We also need fluids, mostly water, to perform at our best.
Our muscles rely primarily on carbs for energy and rely on protein to help repair and build our muscles after a workout.
The Mayo Clinic reminds us, “Not getting enough vitamins, minerals and other nutrients can compromise your health and your performance.
Yet fueling up for activity is as easy as following the well-established rules of a healthy diet: Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, consume lean proteins, eat healthy fats, get your whole-grain carbohydrates, and drink plenty of fluids, especially water.”
Before Your Workout
Fueling your body properly before a workout will keep your energy levels up and allow you to perform to the best of your ability. It’s important to think about what you are consuming before your workout, what you shouldn’t eat before you work out and how long before you exercise should you be consuming these foods.
It may take some trial and error to figure out the right foods and the right timing for eating before you exercise. If you eat too much right before your workout, you may feel sluggish or even nauseous. If you eat too little or haven’t eaten in the past 4 to 5 hours (or more), you may not have the energy you need to push through or do your best. An empty stomach could also cause you to feel lightheaded.
In general, if you are having a larger meal, make sure it is at least three to four hours before exercising. If it is closer to your workout time, a small meal or snack is a better idea and could be eaten about one to three hours before you get moving. When eating something small within an hour or two of your workouts, focus on easily digestible carbohydrates (low in fiber) for energy, to ease hunger pangs and to minimize stomach digestion during exercise. Something around 200 calories, mostly carbs and some protein usually works best. Stay away from any new food you haven’t tried before or anything greasy or fried.
If you exercise early in the morning, before breakfast, usually a short brisk walk is fine on an empty stomach. Just be sure to drink some water. For more intense exercise, eat a small amount of easy to digest carbs before you start.
Some examples of a pre-workout snack:
- a banana
- slice of whole grain toast with peanut butter
- a fruit smoothie
It’s best to start your workout hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids (especially water) with meals and two hours before exercise. Water is usually enough to keep you hydrated during your workouts. However, if you're exercising for more than 60 minutes in hot, humid conditions, sports drinks may help. They give you carbs and sodium, as well as fluids.
After Your Workout
During your exercise, your body used its stored energy and broke down some muscle fibers. Restoring those nutrients is important. Eat a meal that is high in protein and contains some carbs within one to two hours of your exercise session if possible. Consider a smaller snack that includes carbs and protein if your meal is more than two hours away.
A few post workout meals and snacks examples:
- chicken breast with brown rice and broccoli
- sweet potato with seasoned black beans
- Greek yogurt with fruit (use frozen fruit and blend into a smoothie if preferred)
- scrambled eggs with chopped veggies
Protein is an important macronutrient that is involved in nearly all bodily functions and processes. It plays a key role in exercise recovery because it provides essential amino acids that build and repair muscles. The amount of protein you should consume each day depends on a few factors including your weight, your overall health, and how long and what types of workouts you are doing. In general, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that the average individual should consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram or 0.35 grams per pound of body weight per day for general health. That means a person that weighs 75 kg (165 pounds) should consume an average of 60 grams of protein per day. Someone who is very active would most likely benefit from more protein each day. You can calculate your minimum protein requirement by multiplying your weight in pounds by 0.36 or use this online protein calculator.
Ideally, protein requirements should come from whole foods, but supplemental protein, in the form of protein powders, readymade drinks or bars, can be convenient and okay for you if they do not artificial sweeteners, colors or fillers or sugar alcohols. Check the ingredient list for ingredients you recognize. There is some debate about negative effects of artificial sweeteners on the gut microbiome, potentially causing some chronic conditions and negatively effecting the hormone that regulates our feeling of fullness. The results of studies on this are varied, but excessive consumption of artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols does seem to impact the bacteria within the gut and both sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners can cause upset stomach symptoms for some individuals. It isn’t a good practice to rely on protein supplements to meet your daily protein requirements, but they can be quick and convenient when you need them. For some peace of mind about the quality of protein powders, check that they are NSF Certified for Sport or Informed Choice Certified. These third-party tests confirm that a powder’s label accurately reflects its ingredients, and that it doesn’t contain banned or dangerous substances.
Not every activity requires a special snack before or meal high in protein right after. An overall healthy diet where you are getting enough healthy carbs and protein, will support most activities like a walk around the block or leisurely bike ride in the neighborhood for example. Fueling for exercise will look different for a marathon runner, a bodybuilder, and an average gym goer. Have more questions about your nutrition? Consider asking a registered dietitian or your doctor.
There is no perfect meal to eat before and after exercise that works for everyone. Pay attention to how you feel during your workout and to your overall performance. Consider keeping a journal to monitor how your body reacts to meals and snacks so that you can adjust your diet for optimal performance. Follow the general guidelines given here and experiment to find what foods and what timing works best for you.
What and when you eat can affect your performance and how you feel while you're exercising. Learning how to fuel your body properly can help you make the most of your exercise routine.
Exercises and Stretches For Back Pain
Does your back hurt? Probably many of you are shaking your heads yes right now because a 2019 survey from the CDC found that 39% of adults had experienced back pain in the past three months when surveyed. Back pain can range from general muscle aches to a stabbing pain. It is one of the most common complaints I hear as a trainer, and it is one of the most common reasons people seek medical treatment or miss work. Luckily, maintaining a strong and healthy body (especially a strong core) can help prevent or relieve most back pain. If you do suffer from a sore back, it’s important to identify the reason your back is hurting and to know if it is simply a pain like a muscle ache or strain, or if it is a structural issue with the spine or disk problems with the disks that cushion the vertebrae (the small spinal bones). Some pain or achiness can be the result of being sedentary too long or from arthritis. Other times it may be a result of an event like an accident or illness. The Mayo Clinic recommends seeing your doctor about your back pain if it:
- Lasts longer than a few weeks.
- Is severe and doesn’t improve with rest.
- Spreads down one or both legs, especially if the pain goes below the knee.
- Causes weakness, numbness, or tingling in one or both legs.
- Is paired with unexplained weight loss.
Exercise will help to strengthen the muscles that support the spine which removes pressure from the spinal discs and reduces the risk of injury. Movement will also improve mobility, flexibility, and stiffness. All of which can reduce pain. A balanced workout plan is best and should include both stretching and strengthening as well as aerobic exercise that elevates the heart rate.
In many cases, exercise and stretching most likely will help reduce your back pain and will help to prevent back pain from occurring. However, some injuries require up to a few weeks of rest to heal the issue, so it’s important to identify the cause of your discomfort before launching into the exercises and stretches below. Please consult with your doctor if you aren’t sure.
Exercises for Back Pain
Start with your breath. When performing exercises or stretches, be mindful of your breathing. Focus on taking nice long inhales and exhales and relaxing the muscles in your back.
Walking is a great exercise anytime and that includes when your back is hurting. How far and how often you go is a matter of how your body tolerates it and can be different for everyone. Start by going a short distance and slowly add more time to your walk as the weeks go by. With this and any exercise, stop if the activity is causing pain.
The Superman Exercise is a great way to build strength and stability in your lower back and core muscles.
- Lie on your stomach with your arms stretched out in front of you. Engage your abdominal muscles by drawing your navel in toward your spine.
- Lift your arms, head, and legs off the ground about five inches.
- Hold the position for 3-5 seconds and then relax. Repeat this several times, building up to more reps or holds if desired.
Birddogs are another move that works many muscles of the core and builds strength and stability in the back as well as other parts of the core.
-Kneel on the floor, knees hip-width apart, with your hands firmly placed on the ground about shoulder-width apart. Engage your abdominal muscles by drawing your navel in toward your spine.
- First, practice lifting one hand and the opposite knee just an inch or two off the floor while balancing on the other hand and knee and keeping your weight centered.
-When you feel steady and ready to move on to full range of motion, point the arm out straight in front and extend the opposite leg behind you. You should form one straight line from your hand to your foot, hips squared to the ground. However, if your low back begins to sag, raise your leg only as high as you can while keeping your back straight.
-Return to the starting position and complete 3-4 sets of 10 reps on each side. You can add a light weight in your hand when you become comfortable with this exercise.
A rack pull is a type of deadlift that is great for anyone with limited hamstring flexibility. Rack pulls are good for both glute strength and lower back strength. Start with a light weight as you perfect your form with this exercise.
- Place a barbell on a rack or boxes, with the bar high enough that it’s just below the knees. Stand with feet hip-width apart and keep your feet flat on the floor with the weight balanced in both feet throughout the entire move. Knees should be soft.
- Keeping your back straight, hinge at your hips shifting them back. Grab the bar with both hands, about shoulder-width apart.
- Push your feet evenly into the floor as you stand up keeping the bar close to the body.
- Lower the bar back down toward the rack or blocks, hitting that hip hinge position again.
- Repeat 3 sets of 5 reps.
The Lat Pulldown targets the latissimus dorsi, more commonly referred to as the "lats," which is the muscle just under the armpits and spreading across and down the back.
-Sit at the Lat Pulldown station and grab the bar with an overhand grip that’s just beyond shoulder width. Your arms should be completely straight and your torso upright.
-Pull your shoulder blades down and back and bring the bar to your chest. Pause, then slowly return to the starting position.
-Complete 3-4 sets of 10-12 repetitions on each side.
Stretches for Back Pain
When stretching, listen to your body and only push to the point of feeling a stretch. Stop any movements that feel painful.
- Stand with your arms stretched up straight over your head.
- Plant your feet firmly to the ground, about hip-width apart.
- Place your right hand around your left wrist and lean your body over to the right side. Try to keep your hips straight as you stretch.
- Hold for 5-10 seconds.
- Return to center.
- Repeat on the other side.
- Start on all fours on the floor or place both hands flat on a counter, desk, or tabletop, keeping your arms straight. Make sure your hands are directly underneath your shoulders and if on the floor, your knees are directly below your hips.
- Gently round your back, bringing your chin down toward your chest and breathing in.
- Exhale and arch your back and lift your head to look up.
- Slowly flow between each move, three to five times.
- Start on all fours on the floor or on a bed.
- Move your hips back toward your heels.
- Your arms and hands should be outstretched on either side of your head, reaching forward.
- Rest your forehead on the floor or other surface.
- Hold the pose for 10-30 seconds.
When your back is hurting, gentle movement can help lessen the pain in many cases. Consult your doctor prior to starting any new exercise routine and to identify the cause of your pain if you are unsure. General back aches and stiffness can be helped by light exercise and stretching – moving your body! Keep your back healthy and strong by building muscle strength, increasing flexibility and performing regular aerobic activity.