Most people will experience the discomfort at some point in their lives. Back pain can range from mild to severe and can make going to work, driving or other daily activities impossible. Regular aerobic exercises such as walking and swimming help reduce back pain and improve your overall health in a variety of ways. Understand how physical activity benefits your back to find the relief you deserve.
Understanding Back Pain
Back pain is among the most frequent reasons people are absent from work or call the doctor. Common symptoms include stabbing aches in the back, pain that extends through your leg, reduced flexibility and the inability to stand erect. Your risk increases for back pain when you smoke, maintain an unhealthy body weight or experience high amounts of stress. Women are more likely to suffer back pain than men. Most cases of back pain heal themselves after a few weeks of home care, and surgery is rarely necessary.
Safe Aerobic Exercise
Doctors often recommend low-impact aerobic exercise, such as walking, for people with back pain, to increase endurance and strength in your back and enhance muscle function. Walking workouts offer a high level of convenience, as they require only a good pair of athletic shoes and don't require a gym membership. Walking also aids your back by facilitating weight loss, as being overweight places increased strain on your back muscles. People who walk or perform other regular aerobic activities also benefit from a lessened risk for osteoporosis, heart disease and diabetes.
Swimming and Bicycling
Swimming complements walking as a low-impact aerobic exercise for the back that causes minimal strain because water supports your body. Swimming is also beneficial if you have joint or muscle problems. Some people with back pain might prefer riding a bike, either outdoors or on a stationary bike. Cycling improves your health, but spares your back — as well as your ankles, hips or knees — from stress that might trigger pain, as it's a low-impact exercise as well. Some doctors prescribe a biking regimen to patients who are significantly overweight or suffer from arthritis.
Most aerobic exercise plans include activity up to five days each week for 30 to 60 minutes per session, although your doctor can offer suggestions about how to tailor your regimen to your overall health condition. Ask your doctor if dividing your aerobic walking, biking or swimming into smaller time segments will be more beneficial than a continuous workout. Start any aerobic activity at a moderate pace and increase intensity only when you feel ready.
Contact your doctor if your back pain fails to subside after three days of self-care or if you suffer tingling, fever or intense pain that extends past your knees. Back pain in some cases signals the presence of a serious medical condition, including spinal cancer and meningitis.
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Low Back Pain Exercise Guide
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Warm Up, Cool Down and Be Flexible
- Merck Manuals; "Choosing the Right Exercise"; September 2007
- Cleveland Clinic: What is the Best Aerobic Exercise?
- Medline Plus: Back Pain
- Cleveland Clinic: Aerobic Exercise