Exercises to help your back

  • Posted: Monday, February 4, 2013 12:07 a.m.

SALISBURY — I think the statistics that say 80 percent of the population at one point will suffer with some sort of back pain was proven this week after last week’s column.

Too bad that so many people are dealing with back pain. This week’s column is a follow-up with exercises for a healthy back.

As I mentioned before, when I dealt with my neck issue, the pool was the only thing I could do that gave me relief but also the ability to exercise the rest of my body.

If you are willing to experiment, please try our water exercise classes. It focuses on the whole body, but many of the exercises will be for a healthy back. You do not have to be able to swim. If you are scared of the water you can even hold on to the side and be in a part that is not deep and still get a great workout for your whole body and especially your back. Exercises to maintain a healthy back need to include strengthening exercises, stretching and flexibility, and aerobic exercises.

The same principle in the water can be performed out of the water. Please note that the water gives your body buoyancy which makes it easier for the joints and muscles to move. The buoyancy also allows the joints to move in a greater range of motion.

However, some good strengthening exercises out of the water can be the following:

Curl ups for the abdominals — Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor; push your lower back on the floor and lift your shoulder blades off the floor. Hold for five to 10 seconds and do this five to 10 times.

Oblique raises — Lie on your back with your knees bent again and feet on the floor. Push your lower back down and curl up the upper body, bringing both hands towards one side of the hips. Hold for about five seconds, repeat to the other side and do this about five to 10 times on each side.

On your stomach trunk raise — Lie flat on your stomach with your hands next to your body. Tighten your buttocks and lift your head, shoulders and part of the chest off the floor (keep head in extension of your spine) as high as you can handle comfortably. Hold for five to 10 seconds and repeat five to 10 times.

Continue on stomach this time with your arms extended next to your ears (how Superman would fly through the sky) Now lift your left leg and right arm and hold for about five seconds (does not have to be high, about 1-2 inches off the floor) Switch to right leg and left arm. Do about five repetitions on each side.

Good stretching exercises can be:

• On your back with knees bent and feet on the floor, lift one leg up, supporting the back of the thigh, and pull towards the upper body. Try to keep the leg as straight as possible. Hold 15 to 30 seconds and repeat two to three times. Do the same on the other side.

• Double knees to the chest — On your back, knees bent. Pull both knees toward your chest until you feel the stretch in your lower back (not pain). Hold for five seconds and repeat three to five times. Do not bounce your knees to your chest.

• Quad stretch (front of upper leg) — Stand and hold on to a chair or anything stable with one hand. With the other hand try to grab your foot. The knee of your bent leg is next to your standing leg. Try to bring foot toward buttocks, hold 15-30 seconds and repeat about two to three times on each leg.

• Standing backward bend — Stand up straight with your hands on your waist. Bend backwards, arching your back as far as you comfortably can. Hold five seconds and repeat about five times. If you need more support, you can put your hands on the top of your buttocks, fingers pointing down.

I hope these exercises and suggestions will help you get a healthy back. Don’t forget about your posture and eating habits. And speaking from my own experience, this is not something you do “just” for X amount of weeks. A healthy back and body takes work, and you need to continue this forever.

Remember, when you don’t use it, you lose it.

Ester H Marsh is health and fitness director at the J.F. Hurley Family YMCA

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