Pounding the pavements, spin class or the working out at the gym feels rather compulsory when squeezed into spare moments between commuting, working and family life instead of the joyful experience we wish it was.
Exercise becomes a less palatable prospect when lower back pain flares up. The fear of grimacing through pain or straining sore muscles leads to avoidance behaviours. But persevere with favourite physical activities because according to research, a walk a day keeps the doctor away!
Time and again studies have suggested that exercise really makes all the difference between preventing and suffering back pain. To put this to the test, scientists from Sydney and Brazil teamed up to review as many studies as possible to see if the findings are reliable. Their study published in February 2016 reviewed results obtained in 29 trials which matched their specific criteria and included a pool of 30,850 participants.
The results confirmed that exercise truly prevents and decreases levels of lower back pain. When it is combined with education around looking after the body and exercising correctly the chances of taking sick-leave from work are reduced even more.
The human body is designed for movement and just like a machine, it runs rough if neglected. Take a parked car, for example. Leave it unattended while you holiday for a month and it will splutter along the roads when driven again, if it comes to life at all without a mechanic. In a similar vein, to keep the human body in peak condition and pain free, daily exercise should be prioritised like eating healthy food and getting a good night’s rest.
Exercise is not the only intervention that low back pain sufferers use to mediate pain. The ergonomic set up of work equipment is important, the use of braces and belts and shoe insoles can contribute to an individual’s health however none of these on their own compare to exercise. Simply sitting in the correct posture, or committing to insoles will not prevent lower back pain without exercise becoming routine.
The exercise that the 30,000 study participants engaged in worked on strength, flexibility and aerobic fitness. The whole body was incorporated into exercises instead of simply concentrating on back stretches. And most importantly participants exercised at least three times a week for over a year indicating an active lifestyle is necessary to receive the benefits that exercise brings.
A further literature review with around 2,500 study participants confirmed that the style of exercise was not really an issue. Some people prefer motor control exercises which focus on core stability and muscles around the spine, however, it is important to know that these exercises are equally effective to other forms. Peaceful laps at the swimming pool or spending Saturday morning playing 9 holes of golf with a mate might just fit your style.
When it comes to incorporating exercise into your lifestyle, the factors which will make it easier to commit in the long term include personal interest, ability, cost and opportunities for socialising. Consulting with a physician or physiotherapist will confirm which activities are the best for your individual body and circumstances. Plus they will ensure important muscle groups in the limbs and back receive their work out too.