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Back Pain Center

Is Walking a Good Exercise for Lower Back Pain?

by
author image Jen Morel
Jen Morel has worked in the newspaper industry since 2007. An experienced backpacker, she is a contributor to "AMC Outdoors" and other hiking/environmental magazines. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in cognitive science and philosophy.
Is Walking a Good Exercise for Lower Back Pain?
Woman walking Photo Credit lzf/iStock/Getty Images

Lower back pain is the most common work-related disability. Most instances disappear after a few days -- if your pain lasts for more than three months, it's considered chronic. Low-impact exercises, especially walking, are appropriate activities if you suffer from recurring lower back pain. Accompany walking with exercises designed specifically to improve your back strength and flexibility, which your doctor can recommend.

Benefits

Walking strengthens your bones and muscles, including those in your feet, legs, hips and torso along with the back muscles that hold you upright. Stretching and then walking will improve your back's flexibility, range of motion and posture, which can help prevent future back pain or reduce its severity. Walking also stimulates the release of endorphins, which reduce back pain.
Incorporating walking into your routine helps improve your spine's stability. This exercise benefits your circulation, helping pump nutrients into tissue and drain toxins, which nourishes your spine.

Safety

If you suffer from lower back pain, you may find many types of exercise injure your back, especially high-impact activities such as jogging. Walking is less intense than many other forms of exercise and thus less likely to aggravate your condition.

You might experience some discomfort from walking. If it causes pain, try a different low-impact activity such as swimming, riding a stationary bicycle or yoga. Only walk on flat surfaces during healing to prevent straining your back.

Technique

When you walk, keep up a rapid pace but do not exercise to the point of breathlessness. You should be able to carry on a conversation without gasping for air. Begin with a slow five-minute walk and continue until you're walking for at least 30 minutes, or 2 miles, three or four times a week. Maintain correct posture to prevent further injury to your back -- use the abdominal muscles to support your trunk and spine by keeping your stomach tucked in slightly and standing completely upright. Don't lean forward when you walk. Swing your arms and keep your hands relaxed. If you're on a treadmill, avoid using the handrails unless you need them to keep your balance.

Other Factors

Make sure you stretch before exercising. Use gentle stretching techniques to stretch your neck, arms, hips, legs, hamstrings and ankles. Purchase walking shoes that fit correctly. Your feet keep your body aligned and in balance -- ill-fitting shoes can lead to bad posture, muscle strain and back pain.

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