Making and keeping a resolution to exercise is something most everyone can do. As a certified personal trainer, I help even those with chronic back pain find ways to improve their mobility and fitness. Below are some tips we can all use to make getting healthier, easier.
1. Count the minutes
Set your goal to reach a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. Remember, this is a minimum goal you can reach with a brisk (one that raises your heart rate) 30-minute walk every day. Of course, you are not limited to 150 minutes; find a weekly schedule that works for you and that you can maintain week after week.
2. Look for ways to stay active
In addition to increasing your workout time, you can reduce the amount of time you are sedentary. This is key to reducing cardiovascular, pulmonary, and metabolic diseases. You can take the stairs instead of the elevator, park farther from the door than you need to, or even walk around while taking a call or discussing something with a coworker.
3. Emphasize abdominal exercises
To increase core strength, emphasize abdominal exercises and incorporate trunk stabilizing exercises. Here are a few of my favorites:
• Plank: Maintain a pushup position, on either the hands or forearms. Over time, build up the length of time you hold the pose.
• Bird Dog: Balance on your right hand and left knee, and extend the left arm and right leg parallel to the ground. Switch and repeat.
• Bridge: On your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, plant your feet and raise the hips off the ground. This will strengthen the trunk, glutes, and hamstrings.
These exercises should be the bulk of your abdominal routine to mitigate or reduce the risks of muscle weakness which could cause lower back pain.
4. Switch up your routine
Also make it a goal to try new or different methods of fitness throughout the year (try a group class, go paddle boarding, change up your workout routine). The human body is excellent at adapting to the physical demands placed upon it, therefore, it’s always good to deviate from your normal routine.
5. Don’t forget to stretch
Regardless of the workout you perform, both your warm-up and cool down should include range of motion or stretching movements to improve performance, reduce the risk of injury, and increase range of motion. A general rule of thumb is to include dynamic stretches in the warm-up and static stretches in the cool down.
Dynamic stretches are performed in motion, such as arm circles or knee raises.
Static stretches require holding a position for a specific length of time, such as 30 to 90 seconds. Examples include a calf stretch by placing one toe pointing up on a wall and the other foot flat behind you while standing.
Regardless of how you choose to exercise, keep moving. Exercise is great for building a healthy body, but it can also improve your sleep and improve your energy level.
Gary Williams is a certified personal trainer with the NHRMC Jack Barto Center for Employee Fitness.