Better Backs

In my line of work I often hear back pain being used as an excuse for not doing exercise! Whilst I appreciate that for some with chronic conditions this is a very valid excuse and medical advice should always be sought in the first instance. However, it is becoming more and more commonly known that exercise is now recommended as one of the best ways to help prevent and manage most back pain. I have been teaching exercise for many years and have recently started training for a long run, well out of my comfort zone! I noticed after my first 8 mile run that my lower back was a bit stiff with a niggling pain every now and then. After a good old stretch and a run through one of my Strengthen & Stretch Better Backs sessions it felt much better. I am convinced that had I relaxed on the sofa, to ‘rest’ my back, I would have made it much worse… Obviously, after a long run I did indeed relax on the sofa feeling smug later, but only after I had stretched out my back (as well as my legs and glutes), and reached for the chocolate – well there has to be some perks to long distance running!

Everyday we all use various things to keep our skin, hair and nails looking and feeling healthy. Why therefore, don’t we do exercises that will keep one of the most important parts of our body healthy, supple and fit? Stronger abdominal and hip muscles will help to stabilise and keep back muscles fitter. Good posture and exercises that increase mobility and strength of the back are all vital in keeping the important function of the spine and back muscles running smoothly and freely. We oil our car engines to keep them lubricated, why do we not look after our bodies in the same way?

Exercising encourages fluid exchange and means the spaces between the joints are kept lubricated. Regular back exercises and stretches will work like keeping a machine well oiled. Listen to your own body if anything becomes painful, stop and speak to your GP or your exercise provider; I always say exercise should make your muscles feel tired but it should not be painful! Long term exercise increases the strength of ligaments and tendons, leading to more stable joints. Exercising the back muscles themselves reduces stiffness by keeping their connective fibres and tissues of ligaments and tendons flexible. Improved mobility that comes with exercise helps prevent these fibres from tearing under stress, which in turn helps to prevent back pain and injury.

We rely on several muscle groups and joints to take every day pressures off the spine itself. If these are weak then the stress that the spine is put under in every day life takes it’s toll and leads to more wear and tear within the spine. If they are stronger they can take up some of the slack and protect the spine. It therefore makes perfect sense to ensure we have strong abdominal and pelvic muscles and joints. Our back and abdominal muscles act like a corset supporting the vertebrae discs, bones and ligaments. If these two major muscle groups are strong not only are they helping to keep the internal organs healthy but they can work hard a their job of supporting the back and make us stronger. In addition, for example, if our hamstrings are strengthened and stretched regularly they can take their part in relieving stress on the lower back too. Reducing the chances of recurring back pain.

We need to exercise our backs in a consistent, regular way; maintaining strength and mobility. Staying active with regular exercise of differing types to maintain our strength, tone and mobility. Maintaining good posture is key to all of this. When your bones and joints are in correct alignment it allows the muscles to be used as intended. Muscles don’t have to work so hard to do what they should be doing. To achieve this good posture, we need muscle flexibility and normal motion in the joints. In turn it leads to a decrease in the abnormal wear and tear on joint surfaces and it prevents back ache and muscle pain.

In each weekly workout I always ensure there are exercises to help with all the above; this is obviously hard to achieve in half an hour which is where the little extra add on videos like ‘Better Backs’ come in. It was reassuring to note in my research for this blog the exercises that kept being highlighted were all ones we do on a regular basis, some photos of which I have put throughout this piece.

In conclusion it is safe to say that for most of us exercise is key to a healthier, stronger back. Which in turn will lead to good posture, strong core muscles to help protect key organs, improved circulation and lung capacity and, we will be less prone to injury when doing every day things. It is important for all muscles and joints to remain active and engaged but in particular the back muscles. Let’s all get our Strengthen and Stretch Weekly Workout done regularly!

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