Experiencing a back injury can rob you of mobility and cause pain that makes even the most basic movements difficult. Once you have rehabilitated from your injury, your physician may recommend exercising to maintain or achieve a healthy weight, relieve stress and maintain mobility. Varying your cardiovascular exercises can help you to avoid strain and over-use, which could potentially re-injure the back.
Always get your physician’s approval before beginning any exercise program. After a back injury and recovery, your physician can make recommendations for appropriate exercises for your condition. When you are first resuming your exercise program, you may wish to avoid exercises that involve twisting the back or sudden stops and starts, like tennis and basketball, according to the Merck Manual Home Edition. High-impact movements such as step aerobics and jogging may place too much strain on the back when you are first resuming cardiovascular exercise.
Walking is a low-impact exercise that can be performed almost anywhere and is ideal for back patients recovering from injury. Be sure to warm up your muscles for 5 minutes by walking more slowly than usual and stretching your back, arms and legs. When you walk, keep the back as straight as possible -- but do not clench the back as you walk. If your injury has kept you from exercising for some time, you may wish to start with short time increments: 10 to 15 minutes of walking at a time should be sufficient. As you increase in back strength, walk for 30 minutes at a time. Aim for three cardiovascular sessions per week, increasing up to five as your cardiovascular capacity improves.
A recumbent bicycle places less strain on the back than a traditional upright or stationery bicycle. Adjust the seat to where your feet can pedal comfortably as you use the bicycle. As you improve in function, you can hold light hand weight -- typically between one and three pounds -- and perform basic moves such as bicep curls and shoulder presses while cycling. This builds muscle and makes the exercise more challenging.
Yoga and Tai Chi
Use yoga and and tai chi as a complimentary practice to your cardio workouts. Although some of the more strenuous styles of yoga like Ashtanga may be out of your reach while you're healing from your back injury; the slow measured movements of both yoga and tai chi will strengthen your core muscles that support your back.