For most of us over 50, there are times when lower back pain spoils an otherwise perfect day. Simply sitting down is uncomfortable. Getting fired up for a morning workout is even more daunting.
Just the Facts
The fact is, chronic lower back pain is on the rise, with experts estimating more than 80 percent of all Americans will experience a bout of back pain at some point in their lives. It’s the leading cause of disability worldwide, according to the American Chiropractic Association.
So what can active Boomers do to maintain strong backs and support the muscles that stabilize the spine and core? Thanks to the experts at the American Council on Exercise, there are a few very simple body-weight exercises we can do at home to help stave off lower back pain. Check these out.
As simple and straightforward as possible, planks build core stability and should be a go-to in your exercise regimen.
Start with elbows positioned below your shoulders and walk the feet back one at a time until the body is in a straight line. Engage your quads, glutes and core as you push away from the floor onto your toes and forearms.
Do 1-3 sets for 30-60 seconds to start, or for a long you can maintain good form. Don’t let your hips or butt slump down below your body. Remember to breathe. Modified planks can be done with the knees touching the mat, rather than on the toes.
The side plank requires us to activate our internal and external oblique muscles, which may be even more helpful for strengthening the muscles that stabilize our backs. These muscles help control rotational movements of the spine.
Start with one elbow positioned directly below your shoulder. Stack the feet or stagger one in front of the other. Drive up through the lower obliques until your body is straight in line.
Do 1-3 sets for 30-60 seconds, or for as long as you can maintain good form. Keep the shoulders and hips stacked. Don’t allow the butt and hips to sag down. Reach opposite hand toward the sky. To modify, place the reaching hand on the hip or on the floor in front of you. You can even drop the bottom knee to the floor for additional support.
Superman Back Extension
Back extensions are awesome for strengthening the posterior side of the back.
Laying flat on a mat with arms and legs extended upward, gently engage your core and lift your arms and feet off the ground a few inches.
Hold for 2 seconds, or as long as you can maintain good form and slowly lower back down. Do 1-3 sets of 10-15 reps.
Weak gluteal muscles can contribute to lower back pain when they lack enough strength to support activities like walking, running, squatting and other lower-body exercises.
For this exercise, start in a sit-up position with hands by your sides, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Press through your feet and simultaneously squeeze the glutes and lift your hips off the floor.
Good form means a straight line from heels to shoulders. Hold for two seconds and lower back down to the floor. Do 1-3 sets of 10-15 reps.
This exercise helps strengthen the stabilizing muscles of the core and back. Remember, proper form means your torso remains stable while the arms and legs move.
Begin on your hands and knees with the core engaged. Slowly raise one arm and the opposite leg to torso height. Make sure your hips and shoulders are still facing the floor. Slowly lower and repeat for 10-15 reps. Do this 1-3 times each side.
If you’ve ever experienced lower back pain, you know how aggravating it can be. Try to incorporate these back strengthening exercises into your routine a few times a week as you support the foundation for core strength and stability.
As with any exercise program, undertake only under the supervision of a trained professional.