Approximately 70 percent of American adult women will have low back pain at some point in their lives, and if you are one of them, exercise can help. However, it is imperative that you follow the correct exercise routine, because incorrect workouts can worsen the problem. If you are a woman with low back pain and are looking to lose weight, include flexibility work, low-impact cardio, walking and core stability exercises in your workout routine.
Although stretching doesn’t directly help with your weight loss, it is important in keeping your low back pain free. Stretching the muscles attached to your hips is imperative because increased mobility in your hips decreases the pressure on your spine. Make sure to include stretches for your hamstrings, hip flexors, quadriceps, hip adductors and glutes. Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds and take deep breaths while you stretch to help your muscles relax. You should ideally stretch every day.
Cardio exercise is where you burn the most calories to help yourself lose weight. To help reduce the risk of back pain, the cardio must be low-impact. Low-impact cardio includes elliptical trainers, bikes and swimming. Treadmill running, stair-climbing and taking aerobics classes are not low impact, although treadmill walking is. Once you choose your machine, aim for five days per week of cardio with each session being at least 30 minutes at a moderate intensity.
Although it is not the most intense exercise, walking is safe for the back and can help increase the amount of calories you burn each day., as recommended by the ACSM. Walking is low impact and can be done anywhere. Make sure you have good walking shoes that provide enough cushion. You can even use simple strategies to incorporate walking throughout your day, like parking your car farther away, using the restroom that is farther away or walking to a neighbor’s instead of calling. The more you can incorporate walking into your day, the more calories you will burn and the more weight you will lose.
Core Stability Exercises
To help burn more calories and reduce the risk of back pain, incorporate core stability exercises into your routine. Planks, side planks and bridges can significantly increase the strength of your trunk and help reduce low back stress. Choose three exercises, and hold each position for 30 seconds, repeating two times. As you do your core exercises, make sure to engage your core and abdominal muscles to help take pressure off the back.
- ACE Fitness: Catering to Clients with Low Back Pain
- University of New Mexico: Fitness and Low Back Pain
- ACSM’s Resource Manual for Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, 5th edition; Leonard A. Kaminsky
- Exercise Testing and Exercise Prescription for Special Cases 3rd Edition; James S. Skinner
Scotty Brunning is a Chicago-based health and fitness writer. Having worked with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cooper Fitness Center in Dallas, he has a plethora of fitness experience. He is an ACSM-certified health fitness specialist and a Cooper Institute master fitness specialist. Brunning holds a master's degree in health and fitness.