If you have a bad back or spine, then you will find that this is a problem that can affect almost every aspect of your life. While no joint pain is particularly desirable, pain in the spine is particularly invasive due to all the nerves that run through this part of the body which means that every movement we make becomes much more painful and difficult.
This then of course makes getting into shape rather a struggle, as we will be less able to move around and certainly less able to engage in vigorous exercise designed to build muscle and burn fat. This can have dire consequences though if it means that we end up gaining weight and losing physical fitness – as this will then exacerbate the issue of our spine and make it much more difficult to recover. Fortunately though there are ways around this problem, so here we will look at what those are and how you can stay trim even when your back makes doing so hard.
The best way to burn calories is to use cardiovascular training, but the problem with that is that it often requires impact and weight bearing. Running for instance is an absolute no-no for anyone with spinal injuries, so instead you need to look for other ways to burn off those calories and improve your heat health.
Fortunately there are many options that don’t involve any impact, including cycling, elliptical training and stairmasters. These unfortunately still require you to place weight on your back though, and if this is still too painful you may need a form of CV that doesn’t involve being upright. Here you have two options – the recumbent bicycle (cycling while leaning backwards in a comfortable chair) or swimming (which will also tone your upper body). On the other hand though, if you can run to a degree but your back ache just makes it harder, then you should make sure you have shock absorbent shoes, and that the treadmill is always on at least a slight incline.
Resistance training is another word for weight lifting, and it’s what most of us use to build and tone muscle. This of course is not a good idea if you have a bad back, though there are other forms of resistance training that are acceptable.
One is to use something called dynamic tension which simply means tensing your muscles through a range of movements. If you don’t know how to do this, then consider joining a class in yoga, Pilates or Tai Chi and then making a conscious effort to tense more during the exercises – this will help you with muscle toning.
You can also use certain light calisthenics which are bodyweight movements. Things that will be suitable potentially for a bad back might include gentle leg raises, press ups on your knees, bodyweight squats or lunge walking. Make sure to listen to your body though, and to stop training when you start to feel discomfort or pain.
Ross Taylor is a dietician based in Toronto, Canada. He is a self proclaimed fitness freak and his articles are a regular feature in various health magazines. He also has a clinic for permanent hair removal in Toronto which he started in partnership with his wife.