Cardio Exercise That Won't Hurt Your Back

Having back pain may mean skipping some types of exercise.
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Almost everyone experiences back pain at some time or another. Back pain has many causes, but it doesn't necessarily mean you have to avoid exercise. Choosing something that is easy on your back allows you to continue with your exercise program. Talk to your doctor before exercising with back pain to ensure that your specific condition won't be made worse.


    Swimming is a good choice for people with back pain because the water supports your weight, taking pressure off your back. The Massachusetts Chiropractic Society recommends swimming sessions of 20 to 30 minutes, three or four times each week. Some people report discomfort in the back area with the breaststroke, so avoid that move if it makes your back hurt. Side and back strokes are good alternatives. Water aerobics may also be appropriate if the routine doesn't involve a lot of landing on your feet at the bottom of the pool.


    Walking on uneven or hard surfaces might not be good for your back, but the exercise itself is gentle and an ideal choice for people with back pain. Walking helps keep your lower body and core muscles strong, which can help control back pain. It is important to choose soft, even surfaces to lessen the impact on your spine with each step. Consider a gravel path at your local high school or an indoor track at the recreation center or gym, many of which are carpeted. A flat, grassy area at a nearby park is also appropriate. Take a walk for 20 to 30 minutes several days per week, but stop if pain flares.

Elliptical and Stationary Bike

    The elliptical offers a muscle-toning workout that may be appropriate if you have back pain. Stand upright and avoid locking your knees, according to the Massachusetts Chiropractic Society. Start slowly and increase your intensity as your body adapts to the exercise and you're sure it won't exacerbate your back pain. If you prefer a stationary bike, the forward leaning position reduces the stress on your back during a ride. A recumbent bike features a back rest, offering additional support and stability to your back as you exercise.


    Stretching helps loosen stiff and sore back muscles and is a good addition to your warm up routine. Many of the moves also tone your muscles and burn calories at the same time. Wall slides are a good choice. To do the move, stand with your back against the wall and slowly lower your body as if sitting in a chair. Do five wall slides two or three times each week. Do 10 leg raises two or three times each week. Lie on your back and alternate lifting each leg several inches into the air. Bridges, back bends and curls are also effective.

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