The lumbar region of your spine supports the majority of your body. Approximately 80 percent of people will suffer from a back injury sometime in their life, with the majority hurting their lower back. Muscle atrophy from inactivity is common to people who sit a lot or work in an office environment. Start a lower back exercise routine to improve lumbar strength and prevent back injuries. Learn how to strengthen your lower back.
- Reduce the number of hours you sit at home and at work. Sitting for long periods of time can atrophy lower back muscles over time.
- Do not sit for longer than 30 minutes at a time. Set a reminder on your computer or on your phone to get up and walk around.
- Invest in a sit/stand desk in your office. This desk moves up and down with a hydraulic or hand lift. Alternate sitting and standing throughout your day.
- Studies have shown that people who sit for 8 hours or more a day have a lower lifespan. Try to sit for less than 8 hours each day. If that is not possible, make sure you do not sit for longer than 5 or 6 hours on the weekends.
- Buy a pedometer. Aim to walk at least 10,000 steps in the course of your daily routine.
- Doctors suggest that 10,000 to 12,000 steps is a healthy level of activity. Walking is also very good exercise for your lower back.
- If you fall well short of this level, try to introduce 10 minute walks at breaks, lunchtime, before and after dinner. Then, add a 30 minute walk every day.
- Determine if you already experience acute lower back pain. If so, book an appointment with a physical therapist so that they can prescribe exercises that will strengthen your back while reducing lower back pain.
- If you experience low back pain or joint problems, make sure your aerobic and strengthening exercises are low-impact. Running, jogging and jumping can aggravate low back pain.
- Swim for 20 to 30 minutes 3 days per week. Swimming laps using the crawl stroke and backstroke strengthen your entire back, while improving heart function and lung capacity.
- Swimming is an extremely good exercise for people who have joint problems or are overweight. Start with 10 minute swims and increase your time in the water by 5 minutes every 1 to 2 weeks.
- Walk or jog in water. Aqua walking and jogging provide some resistance that helps to strengthen your legs, lower back and mid-back. Start with 10 minutes and move up to 30 minutes 3 to 4 days per week.
- Start a walking routine. Try some variations on a regular walk to increase strength in your lower back.
- Do interval training. Walk quickly for 1 to 2 minutes, and then recover for 3 to 4 minutes. Increase your intervals as you get stronger and improve your cardiovascular fitness.
- Being overweight and obese increases your risk of lower back injury. If you fit into these categories, aerobic fitness should be a significant part of your fitness routine. Doctors recommend 75 minutes of intense cardio exercise or 130 minutes of moderate cardio exercise.
EditBack Strengthening Exercises
- Do pelvic tilting. Lay down on your back with your knees bent, hip-width apart.
- Place your right hand underneath the curve in your back. This is only necessary the first few times, so that you can feel the motion of your lower back muscles.
- Relax your back. Then, press the curve of your lower back into the floor. Hold for 3 seconds, and then release. Repeat 10 times. You can increase the hold to 5 or 10 seconds in order to increase your effort.
- You should feel muscles at the base of your abdomen contract when you do this exercise. This is the transverse abdominis, a muscle that wraps around your stomach and attaches to your lower back. It supports your spine. Get to know the feeling of contracting this muscle, because you should try to contract it inward during all your back exercises.
- Do hip bridges. Keep your knees bent in your original position. Flex your ab muscles and transverse abdominis inward.
- Lift your hips until there is a straight line between your knees and shoulders. Hold for 3 seconds. Slowly return to your original position. Repeat the exercise 10 times. You can increase your hold for 5 to 10 seconds as you build strength.
- Do floor swimming. Flip onto your stomach. Reach your hands above your head and your feet behind you.
- Raise your legs a few inches around. Kick the right leg up slightly and lower it, then kick the left leg up slightly and lower it. Do this 10 to 20 times, holding the leg up for 1 second before switching legs.
- Lower your legs. Raise your arms, alternate them as you did with your legs. Try lifting your left leg and right arm together, then lowering then and raising your right leg and left arm. Repeat 20 to 40 times.
- Do the bird dog exercise. Raise yourself so you are on all fours. Make sure your arms extend right below your shoulders and your legs are right below your hips.
- Raise your left leg for 3 seconds. Lower it and raise your right leg. Repeat 10 times, and then repeat the exercise with your arms. Be careful to keep your back flat throughout the entire exercise, as though it could hold a hot cup of coffee without spilling.
- When you gain noticeable muscle strength, try raising your right arm and left leg at the same time and your left arm and right leg. Make sure your back stays completely still. Start with 5 repetitions on each side and work up to 10.
- Do lunges. Stand up with your legs hip width apart, wearing athletic shoes. Make sure there are several feet of space in front of you.
- Step forward with your right leg, as you lower and bend your left knee. Make sure your right ankle stays in front of your right knee. Lower your back knee as far as you can go, hold for 2 seconds.
- Step back into your original position. Make sure your back is straight and your abs are pulled in during the entire exercise. Repeat with the opposite leg. Do 5 to 10 repetitions on each side, stopping if you are no longer able to keep your back steady or your forward knee behind your ankle.
- Do these exercises every other day. Increase repetitions slowly.
- Once you have mastered these exercises, consider taking a pilates or core strengthening class to learn more. Other exercises that strengthen the low back include squats, planks, swan and exercises with a stability ball.
EditLower Back Stretches
- Stretch your back every day to increase flexibility, reduce pain and help improve muscle endurance.
- Do the cat/cow stretch. Get on all fours, like you did for the bird dog exercise.
- Arch your back slowly, moving in a fluid motion. Allow your head to look up and you pelvis to tilt upward. Slowly return to the original position.
- Round your lower back slowly, in an opposite motion. Allow your head to look down and your pelvis to tip downward. Slowly return to the original position. Repeat 10 times.
- Do a hamstring stretch. Lay on your back with your knees bent.
- Raise your right knee, below the joint. Grab the knee gently and pull it toward your chest. Keep your head flat on the ground. Hold for 10 seconds, and switch legs.
- Do a child’s pose. Lay on your stomach with your legs straight behind you.
- Place your hands below your shoulders. Lift your upper back up and back until you are resting on your knees. Allow your arms to stretch out in front of you. Rest in this position for 30 seconds to 3 minutes.
EditThings You’ll Need
- 10-minute walks
- 30-minute walks
- Physical therapist
- Swimming pool
- Walking shoes
- Floor mat
- Strengthening exercises
- Back stretches
- Sit/Stand desk
- Stability ball
- Pilates/core strengthening classes
EditSources and Citations
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