If you have poor posture or frequently lift objects for work or home, you may be at risk of injuring your back. Having weak bones, as with conditions of osteopenia and osteoporosis, also increases the risk of spinal fractures in the back. The good news is that there are exercises you can do to help decrease the risk of seriously hurting your lower back. Osteoporosis Canada says that weight-bearing exercises are most effective for maintaining strong bones in the spine. Incorporate good weight-bearing exercises for the lower spine into your weekly regimen to stay fit and healthy.
Cardiovascular exercises that are weight bearing such as running, stair climbing and walking help maintain good spinal health. These exercises load the spine under the weight of the body, which can strengthen bones. If you're new to exercise or are at risk of fractures, stick to low-impact exercises with medical supervision. Exercises such as cycling and swimming are not weight-bearing exercises since the seated position and buoyancy of the water supports your body weight. Engage in cardio exercise three to five times per week for 30- to 60-minute sessions each.
Strengthen the lower spine with the superman prone trunk raise. During the superman exercise, the trunk muscles work against gravity while bearing the body's weight. Do this exercise by lying face-down on the floor with legs and feet extended and arms by your sides. Slowly lift your head and shoulders off the floor as you tighten your buttock and back muscles. Your chest should remain on the floor. Hold for three to five seconds before lowering to the start position. Repeat three to five times.
The dead lift is a functional weight-bearing exercise that targets the hamstrings and gluteals in addition to the lower back. Do this exercise by standing up tall in front of a barbell with a straight back. Bend the knees as you hinge forward from the waist to grasp the bar. Your hands should be slightly wider than hip-width apart and on the outsides of your legs. Lower your hips until your thighs are parallel to the floor while keeping the back flat. Raise your hips and shoulders as you lift the bar up until your knees are fully extended. Let the bar hang in front of your hips for a few seconds before reversing the movement to the starting position. Repeat five to 10 times.
The front plank is a good weight-bearing exercise for the lower back as well as the abdominals, gluteals and shoulders. The muscles in the lower back must contract to stay steady and keep the trunk upright against the force of gravity and the resistance of body weight. Do this exercise by lying face-down on the floor with your elbows underneath your shoulders. Push up such that you are resting on your forearms and toes. Keep the back straight as you contract your abdominal muscles to prevent your back from sagging. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat three times.
Jennifer Andrews specializes in writing about health, wellness and nutrition. Andrews has a Master of Science in physical therapy from the University of Alberta as well as a bachelor's degree in kinesiology. She teaches yoga and pilates and is a recent graduate of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition.