Low Back-Friendly Weekly Fitness Routine

I’ve lived with chronic back pain all my life. Painful or not, however, I still need regular exercise. I’ve also put on weight from antidepressant use and am working to get those pounds off. As a workaround to my back issues, I’ve created a low back-friendly fitness routine. If you deal with constant back pain, you can use this regimen to fulfill your exercise needs or tailor it to your specific needs.

* Know your back. I was born with congenital hip dysplasia, low-back scoliosis and a very slight spina bifida. I’ve also had six pregnancies and several disc issues. By educating myself on my specific back issues, I can adapt my exercise routine. If an exercise you are doing hurts, stop doing it. Exercise should not cause pain, except as stiff muscles loosen up. Find exercises you can do comfortably.

* Don’t just sit there. Sitting for long periods of time takes the greatest toll on the back. Sedentary activities are also linked to pulmonary edema. To prevent blood clots and cramped muscles, I stretch every half hour, doing:

–10 ankle rolls (both feet, both directions)
–10 toe point/ flex rotations
–10 shoulder rolls (both directions)
–10 Kegel exercises (Sphincter muscle tightening)
–10 back arch/slouch rotations

* Schedule exercise. Everyone’s day looks a little different. I work at a computer from my home. I schedule “get up and move” breaks every 20-30 minutes. I have an elliptical right in my office. Every hour, I spend five-seven minutes on the machine for that break. For my schedule, that’s all the time I can afford, but I do it periodically.

* Mix it up. I set the elliptical machine at 2-6 (rolling, valley, fat burn, ramp and fitness) for my morning workouts. In the afternoon, I do 7-10 (random, plateau, intervals, mountain). I begin working about 7:30 a.m. and work until 3 p.m. Using the elliptical this way, I get in about 40-60 minutes total. Some settings are more difficult for me to do without back pain. Intervals and random can be painful, so I do them for shorter periods of time. At times when my back hurts more, like during menstruation, I omit those settings and stick with those that don’t cause discomfort.

* Multitask entertainment and exercise. My office is also where we watch television. Sometimes I don’t get all my workout done, so I finish it while watching a program in the evening.

* Use television binge behavior to your advantage. It’s easy to binge-eat while watching television, because my mind is preoccupied with the show and I’m not watching what I’m eating. I’ve turned that mindless activity mode to a better use, by exercising while watching television. If I’m engrossed, I might exercise for a 30-40 minutes and not realize it.

* Set TV show goals. I use television shows to mark my exercise time, too. For example, I tell myself that I have to stay on the elliptical until “Antiques Roadshow” is over. I always stop if my back begins to ache, however.

* Make partner walks a priority. When the children were younger, family walks and bike rides were top priority. Now that we’re older, we schedule regular couple walks. Sometimes we use this time to discuss problems or problem-solve. Primarily, we just enjoy each other. We live in town, so sometimes we walk downtown for a cup of coffee or to our local diner for breakfast. Walking the beach provides great exercise, too. Walking is one of the most back-friendly exercises there is.

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