By Andrew Heffernan |
Got back stiffness, pain, or general discomfort? Don’t sit still. At work or at home, get up from your chair at least every 20 minutes, recommends Somerset.
In addition, work the moves on this page into your routine. Over time, they will help unslouch your shoulders; fire up your hip joints; take the knots out of your lower back, shoulders, and neck; and, in general, rejuvenate areas that shirk their duties when you sit too much.
Some of the moves may feel familiar and easy — but don’t rush through them. “New research has shown that static exercises — slow movements performed with attention — improve core stability more than faster, more athletic exercises,” says Somerset.
Strive to perform these moves with precision and focus (even if they seem basic). You should feel some improvement after a week or two.
Perform one set of each move at a deliberate pace prior to a workout, after prolonged sitting, before bed, or any other time you’re feeling stiff or low on energy. You can also do them piecemeal throughout your day.
One rule: “Never move into pain,” emphasizes physical therapist Erica Mundinger. “If one side feels fine and the other side is really sensitive, work the good side.”
If you don’t see results, get checked out by a pro. Ditto if you experience shooting pain down your legs, problems with your bowel or bladder, numbness or tingling in your groin, or pain so debilitating you can’t stand or walk. “Those are signs that something more serious is going on,” says Mundinger.
1. Founder Stretch
- Slowly return to a standing position.
Strengthens your lower back and midback, lengthens your hamstrings, and stretches the front of your chest.
One, controlled and slow.
2. Bird Dog
- Hold extended position for a three-count, then slowly return to the starting position.
Strengthens your spinal erectors — the back muscles responsible for keeping you upright.
10 per side
3. Glute Bridge
- Slowly reverse the movement — don’t collapse — and return to the starting position.
Strengthens your glutes, which tend to weaken from habitual sitting.
10 to 15
- If you experience pain at any point, limit the range of motion to the pain-free segment of the movement.
Improves spine mobility and teaches unified movement of the spine.
5. Low Lunge
- Hold this position for up to 60 seconds.
Lengthens your hip flexors, which can pull the top of your pelvis down and cause back pain.
One or two 60-second holds; five to 10 shorter holds of 20 seconds or less.
6. Lower-Trunk Rotation
- Hold for a breath, then slowly reverse the movement and repeat on the other side.
Gently lengthens the muscles on either side of your spine, and teaches proper rotation in the lower body.
7. Shin Box
- Reverse the movement to sit, then repeat on the left.
Improves mobility and coordination of the hips.
10 per side
- Your body should be straight from your heels to head. Hold as long as you comfortably can with good form.
Strengthens and stabilizes the entire front of your core.
Work up to one 60-second hold.
This article originally appeared as part of “Rebuild Your Back” in the March 2016 issue of Experience Life. For another part, see “.” To order a back issue, call 800-897-4056 (press option 3 when prompted). To get all the articles from each issue of Experience Life, subscribe online at .
Modern living can be rough on your back. We crush it in the gym, sit for eight hours, fight our way through traffic, then fall asleep watching TV. It’s a sit-down-and-hurry-up lifestyle that often requires us to do way too little or way too much. That’s why, in addition to regularly performing the rejuvenating moves outlined here, you may also have to incorporate some lifestyle modifications to keep your back healthy. Physical therapist Erika Mundinger offers these four tips: Forget expensive ergonomic chairs. And don’t sit on an exercise ball for long periods — it may make back problems worse. Replace your desk with a standing version; using one has been shown to increase physical activity and reduce pain. If you must sit, place a lumbar pad or a rolled-up towel horizontally behind your lower back to keep it in its naturally arched position. And even then, get up often — at least every 15 to 20 minutes, for at least a minute at a time. Your dad was right! When you’re lifting something heavy, . Don’t round your back forward. Instead, bend your knees, flatten your back, and push your hips back behind you. You’ll protect your spine as your hip and thigh muscles do the work. If you’ve been doing the same workout routine for three months or more, it’s time for a change. Repetitive movement — even the healthy kind you do in the gym — can cause overuse injuries. If you’re a runner, go for a swim. Like lifting? Go lighter or heavier, and change up your exercises. Taking your workout outside — where uneven terrain offers better stimuli for the feet, hips, and back — can have noticeable benefits.
Stabilizes your core, builds mobility in your pelvis and hip joints.10.Improves mobility in the lower back.10.Builds strength and stability in your extensor muscles — your lower back and glutes.10 per side.