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Safe Exercises for a Bad Back


Dealing with chronic back pain is, well, a real pain in the neck. That awful sting or dull ache in your back can be the result of just about anything, from sitting in your work chair to playing whiffle ball with your kids. As a result, you probably shy away from exercise too, in order to prevent worsening your back.

But here’s the truth: Avoiding exercise can do more harm than good.

Contrary to what most people believe, low-impact physical activity and stretches can help relieve back pain. Obviously, we’re not going to recommend picking up kickboxing or any similar vigorous activity. The safe kind of activity you should look to? Try yoga or Pilates, which is great for building strength and endurance in your back. This not only allows your muscles to function better, but feel great as well. You can also try some of these exercises below:

  • Hamstring Stretches: Lie on your back, bend one of your knees and hold for at least 30 seconds. Repeat two to four times per leg.
  • Leg Lifts: Lie on your back and keep one leg straight and bend your other knee. Slowly bring your straight leg up about half a foot off the floor and hold for five seconds. Lower your leg gently and repeat with the same leg ten times. Repeat for the other leg.
  • Pelvic Tilt: Lie on your back again with both of your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Tighten your stomach so you feel your back pressing into the floor and your hips and pelvis moving back as well. Hold for ten seconds while breathing in and out. Repeat eight to twelve times. You can also repeat this exercise using a stability ball.
  • Wall Sits: Stand about a foot away from a wall and lean back until your back is flat against the wall. Begin to slowly slide down until your knees are bent and press your back into the wall. Don’t go past 90 degrees. Hold for ten seconds and stand back up. Repeat eight to twelve times.
  • Partial Crunches: Lie with your knees bent, your feet flat on the floor, and your arms crossed over your chest. Tighten your stomach and raise your shoulders off the floor. Be sure to keep your feet, tailbone, and lower back in contact with the floor at all times to ensure good posture and safety. Repeat eight to twelve times.

Whether you choose to take a Pilates class, or walk around your neighborhood, you should aim for at least 30 minutes of activity a day. If you feel any mild discomfort when you start exercising, it should disappear shortly as your muscles become stronger. If you experience severe pain that lasts more than 15 minutes during your routine, stop your activity immediately and consult with your doctor.