More than 25 million Americans suffer from back pain. About one-third of those aged 65 to 74 have experienced this problem in the last three months. Seniors are the most vulnerable.
As you age, your bones become weaker and muscle mass decreases. Over time, these issues contribute to osteoporosis, fractures, falls, and chronic back pain. Even lower back pain is not self-limiting, it can affect tour quality of life. You might have a hard time doing the things you used to love, such as running, working out, or playing sports.
The question: can you exercise when you’re struggling with back pain? Is it safe? Let’s find out:
Exercise and Back Pain: Do They Mix?
According to health experts, working out with back pain is safe and even beneficial. Seniors with an active lifestyle look and feel younger, have stronger bones, and enjoy a better night’s sleep. They also have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other life-threatening conditions.
However, it’s not uncommon to quit exercise when pain strikes. Many seniors are afraid to go outside and stay active, or hit the gym. Even though certain exercises can make back pain worse, there are plenty of workouts that actually help ease the pain and discomfort. Pilates, yoga, stretching, swimming, jogging, and even strength training are safe for all ages.
Regular exercise can strengthen the muscles that support the spine, improve mobility, and increase blood flow to the working muscles. Moreover, it boosts endorphins levels in the brain, which helps lift your mood and increase pain threshold. The key is to know what exercises to do and what to avoid.
How to Work Out Safely
Unless your pain really intense, you should be able to squeeze exercise into your routine. Stretching should be your first choice. It helps reduce muscle tension, relieves stiff joints, and alleviates back pain.
Another great choice is strength training. Just make sure you stick to light weights and avoid any exercises that put stress on the spine or require lifting above your head. The barbell back squat, military press, sit-ups, leg lifts, and high-impact aerobics are not safe.
Seniors with back pain can engage in low-impact cardiovascular training, swimming, brisk walking, and other gentle activities. Riding a stationary bicycle, for instance, puts no stress on the spine and keeps you fit. If you’re not sure what exercises to do, contact a physiotherapist. He can develop a workout plan that suits your individual needs.