While an apple a day keeps the doctor away, daily physical activities can improve your back strength, and prevent ongoing pain. If sweating it out at the gym isn’t your thing, then you might like to try something that you can slot into your everyday activities with ease, or share with your friends and family.
Bad Backs’ has come up with our top 10 list of activities to improve your back strength – during the work week, and on the weekend too – to enjoy solo or with mates, to get you exercising your back without “working” out.
1. Neighbourhood stroll with music
There is no doubt about it, walking is one of the best ways to improve your back strength. For anyone experiencing lower back pain strolling around your own neighbourhood will strengthen the muscles in your back, feet, legs and core while allowing a quick journey home if your pain threshold is reached. Even though it does hurt, persevere with light exercise when the pain is mild to maintain fitness and flexibility. If you feel like a rest during the stroll set up your Walkstool on the nature strip to take a short breather.
Numerous studies have shown that losing yourself in your favourite music has an analgesic effect. Each time you walk, take your headphones and enjoy the sonic relief.
2. Picnic at the Botanical Gardens
Throughout Australia, capital cities and regional centres all have botanical gardens abundant with nature and walking paths. Get out with friends and family and take a walk amongst the beautiful flora. The walk is strengthening your back muscles and the garden air is restorative for your lungs and heart too.
Take a picnic blanket but ask your friends to carry any heavy picnic baskets and make the most of weekend socialising outdoors.
3. Stretching classes
Stretching classes shouldn’t be underestimated for developing strength, tone and fitness. They are full body work outs that teach you to awareness of your muscles working together and how to integrate movement with breathing. The exercises learnt in a stretch class can be used throughout your life as warm ups before any physical activity.
Not all stretching classes are the same. Some are designed for gentle muscle release, others are for highly advanced yogis. Talk to your gym before going along to see if the class suits your body’s requirements.
Yoga and Barre are popular forms of stretch classes that you might wish to experience.
Find out more four fitness trends to try for better back health
4. Head to the beach
The beach in wintertime has a romantic wildness to it. Without the crowds and the punishing heat it is possible to enjoy a different side to nature, in hues of soft greys to a soundtrack of crashing waves. The sand is fantastic for developing muscle strength in your back and legs. Because sand is a soft and moving surface your muscles need to work that much harder to keep you upright with every step. For a more intense workout, walk (or run) on the dry sand. For an easier workout, the flat, wet sand is dense with water therefore requires less effort to walk on – just be mindful getting wet!
Rowing is a year-round activity beloved by all living by rivers. You have the option of going out on a canoe alone or joining a team. Rowing is a great activity that gives your legs a rest for a change, but still delivers an energy burning workout that develops muscles in your arms and back. Before you try it, talk to your physio or doctor to see if your body will benefit from the torso-twisting action.
Cycling is a low impact activity that can be easy as riding to the local shops, or as difficult as a mountain climb. Either way, your back muscles will be helping you retain balance on two wheels and keep your legs peddling. To make sure you are comfortable during the ride and avoid any damage, check that the height and tilt of the seat is right for you. Some people find a slight tilt forwards by a mere 10 degrees is just enough to relieve pressure from your lower back.
Hitting nine holes on a golf course can give your back the exercise it needs to regain strength. Take a seat on the Walkstool while your mates have their go at a hole-in-one. The benefits from golfing come from walking around the course – helping you gain strength in your back and legs. Avoid sitting in a buggy and driving around because is only a bit more active than being behind a desk. Be careful how you hit the ball because it requires twisting the torso and lifting the club above your head. Ask yourself, will that posture exacerbate your back pain?
Gardening is a great weekend activity for improving your back strength. You find yourself stretching to pull out weeds, moving from crouching to standing (like a squat), and engaging your whole body in exercise when shovelling or raking. And all the energy you pour into the garden now will be rewarded in springtime when it blooms. Before you don gardening gloves, do some warm up stretches to avoid injury and make sure you lift bags of soil and heavy pots from the knees and not the waist!
From Zumba to Ballroom to Tango or Ballet dancing is a toe tapping experience that gets strengthens your back, improves your social life and if you get into the music, you might also feel its pain relief effect! There is a dance style to suit every individual personality and body needs. Get involved through dance schools, gyms or Meetup Groups.
While it is winter, jumping in a heated indoor pool for a swim is great exercise. Choose the slow lane because it benefits your muscles more if your technique is perfect rather than swimming faster than everyone else in the pool. By swimming breast stroke, freestyle and backstroke you will be strengthening muscles in your back without any jarring impact on your legs. For some extra motivation, take a friend to chat to between laps.