It's a conundrum. You have lower back pain exacerbated by excess weight. However, it hurts to exercise lose weight hurts because of that back pain.
The reason why carrying extra pounds leads to back pain has to do with your center of gravity. Extra weight pulls the belly forward, along with the pelvis, straining the lower back. The excess weight stresses the spine and causes it to tilt slightly. You may even experience an unnatural curve to the spine if you've been overweight for much of your life. A 2015 survey in BMJ Open confirmed that being overweight or obese increases the likelihood of lower back pain in men.
Exercise can help improve the strength of muscles that support the spine, so you experience less severe low back pain. Plus, if you burn enough calories during your workouts, you can start to lose weight. Options exist even if you don't have access to a pool or other gym equipment that's often recommended for suffers of back pain.
Walking is one of the most effective ways to burn calories and lose weight. Weight loss is a complex metabolic process, but it does have a lot to do with the energy you burn. If you use up more energy than you consume, your body starts to burn your stored fat. So, in addition to cutting calories, start walking to use up more energy.
Walking is easy on the joints, including your lower back. It's accessible to most people; even if you don't live in an area with sidewalks. Head to your local mall or warehouse store and do some laps, or find a nearby public park. It's also easily progressed. If you're just starting out, give yourself a doable challenge, such as 20 minutes per day, three times per week.
Gradually increase the amount of time you're walking and add days until you're exceeding the 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio recommended for good health by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Work your way up to 250 minutes or more weekly, which leads to significant weight loss, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.
Pilates is not a big calorie-burner, but it can help strengthen your core and, thus, reduce lower back pain. When you have less back pain, you may be able to add more intense activity, such as jogging or calisthenics, to help you lose weight.
PM&R: The Journal of Injury, Function and Rehabilitation published a study in 2017 showing that Pilates exercise programs decrease back pain and reduce perceived disability in people who have lower back pain. Plus, Pilates helps improve your posture, which gives you the illusion of a svelter frame.
Pilates may sound complicated, but a video or online workout breaks it down for you. Plus, you can do the exercises whenever you have time and start with a level that's just right for you.
3. Resistance Training
Resistance training involves working your muscles against weights, or another type of resistance. This form of exercise doesn't burn calories like running or biking, but it helps with weight loss in another way: it develops lean muscle mass. When you have a a leaner, more muscular body, you're more efficient at using the energy you do consume — this means you slim down faster.
An added plus of resistance training? It can build up the stabilizing muscles of your core, upper body and hips to relieve lower back pain.
You may not have a bunch of weight equipment sitting in your living room, but that doesn't mean you don't have options. Invest in a set of rubber resistance bands, which are portable and don't take up much space, but offer extra resistance against which to work. Another benefit of resistance bands is that you can create resistance without having to bend over, such as with a row, which is safer and easier on your back.
Alternatively, use items found around the house, such as a heavy bottle of laundry detergent or a water bottle filled with sand to mimic weights. Exercises that are safe for your aching back include wall sits, seated biceps curls, lateral shoulder raises, reclined chest presses, hip bridges and triceps extensions. Of course, if any of these exercises hurt, stop immediately.