Standing, walking, sitting, running -- your spine and hip joints make all these possible. When they ache, you feel it. Regardless of injuries and chronic conditions such as arthritis, the 33 vertebrae making up your backbone and the two acetabulofemoral joints that are your hips take a regular beating just from daily wear and tear. Exercise programs that are easy on your back and hips can help. Check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.
In a time of fad diets and exercise trends, you cannot beat a tried-and-true Eastern fixture. Yoga's been around for at least 4,000 years, and its popularity isn't waning. Join a class -- which usually lasts 60 to 90 minutes -- and use a combo of meditative, breathing and physical poses to relax, stretch and flex the body and ease pain. There are more types of yoga than colors of nail polish. Finding the right class may take some time. To start, stay clear of Bikram, or hot, yoga. The room can reach a blistering 104 degrees Fahrenheit, and it's very humid. Find a qualified teacher, and tell her if you feel pain in the hips or back. She can adjust the poses.
Take water's natural buoyancy, add exercise, and you end up with a program that's effective at raising your heart rate without putting extra strain on your hips and back. "Spine Health" Doctors Andrew J. Cole and Bruce E. Becker say it's ideal for those with muscle tears, strains and osteoarthritis. Conditions such as these make on-land exercise painful and difficult. In the water, though, it's a different story. Using the water's warmth and buoyancy, you can exercise freely at a fraction of your on-land weight. Your joints don't feel strained while still getting resistance from the water.
You've probably driven by those groups of rhythmically moving crowds parked on lawns, peacefully Zenned, as you're rushing by on your morning commute. Those people are doing tai chi -- a form of Chinese exercise using martial arts moves. In tai chi, your movements are slow, and your breath is calm while your body is flexed. This program is easy on the joints, and according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, tai chi has been clinically proven to help with fatigue and stress and to help those with osteoarthritis of the hips handle their symptoms.
Pilates may seem like yoga's twin sister, but it's far from it. While yoga's focus is on flexing, Pilates cares about strengthening. What was started by Joseph Pilates to help fellow World War I internees in the early 1900s developed into an exercise program adopted by professional dancers; many now embrace it as an effective low-impact exercise program. As you do Pilates, exercises will be all about the core. As you strengthen your core, you'll strengthen your spine and hips, too. Pilates is the most physically challenging of the four programs described in this article. If you find hip moves difficult, skip them until you've toned the supporting muscles.
- Spine Health: Yoga for Back Problems
- Yoga Journal: Yoga's Bad Boy: Bikram Choudhury
- Spine Health: Water Therapy Exercise Program
- Spine Health: Tai Chi for Posture and Back Pain
- The University of Maryland Medical Center: Osteoarthritis
- Spine Health: Pilates Exercise System to Promote Back Health
- Spine Health: Specific Osteoarthritis Exercise Programs
Having studied at two top Midwestern universities, Catherine Field holds degrees in professional writing and patient safety. Writing since 2000, Field has worked with regional newspapers while publishing fiction online. She conducts medical communication research at a Midwestern medical institution and is slated to write a book based on her research findings.