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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Baby Steps to a Stronger Core

GettyImages-463173555Low-back pain is an issue with so many people who are spending entire days sitting to do work. Stretching and mobility work will help ease the lower-back pain, getting the muscles to relax and loosen. Here are some moves to get loose and then start to strengthen the core to keep the pain away.

Cat-Cow/Child’s Pose Mobility Move

Start on your knees with hands under your shoulders, with your toes curled. Using your breath, inhale; then exhale as you tuck your chin toward your chest; and round your low back toward the ceiling. Think about pushing your belly button to the sky. Inhale back to your start position, then exhale looking up slightly and dropping your belly button toward the floor. You are thinking of tilting your hips downward. Inhale back to your start, but reach your hands in front of you, extending the arms and flattening your feet. On your exhale, drive your hips back and enjoy the nice long stretch from your arms through the low back.

Go slowly with your breath for 4–6 rounds. If one position feels good, stay for a few breaths. You can do this multiple times a day and up to every day.

Bird Dog

Start on your knees with hands under your shoulders, with your toes curled. Extend one arm ahead of you and the opposite leg behind you. Think of someone pulling your arm forward and pulling the heel of the extending leg into the wall behind you. Hold for a 5 count. Do not be surprised if your balance is off. (If it is, it’s easy to fix by closing your eyes). Come back to the start position and switch to the opposite arm/leg combination.

Hold each side for a 5 count, with easy breathing. Do up to 5 per side most days of the week.

Plank

Start on your elbows and knees, with the body forming a nice line from your ears to your knees. Think of keeping your glutes tight, and bracing your abs. Build your hold up to 1 minute. If that is too easy, extend your legs and form a line from your ears to your ankles. Think of the same holds, breathing easily. Work up to 1 minute. Then add sets.

NOTE: many people with weak cores will feel some low-back soreness. If this occurs, do a body check: are you in a good line? If so, stay in the plank only until you feel discomfort. Try the other exercises listed and build up your core strength, slowly.

You can do this most days of the week but remember that all muscles need rest and recovery to get stronger.

Heel Touch

Lying on your back, bring your feet up with your knees at 90 degrees. Flatten the low back and keep it flat. Exhale and lower one leg until the heel touches the floor, raise back to start, and repeat on the other side. You may be surprised that it’s easier to keep flat on one leg. Keep working to get the sides even. Do 6–10 on each side. You can do this most days of the week, but remember that all muscles need rest and recovery to get stronger.

Lower back with Kris

There you go! Start (re)building your core with these moves. Stay in a pain-free range and use the exercises that you can do first, and then build to the more challenging ones later.

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Join Kris for her Core and More Fitness Master Class on Wednesdays at 11:15-11:45. Free to NIFS members, this class focuses on core and functional movement exercises with a fast finisher in a compact 30-min workout.

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This blog was written by Kris Simpson BS, ACSM-PT, HFS, personal trainer at NIFS. To read more about Kris and the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: yoga stretching core strength mobility core exercises core stability lower back pain low back pain

Fight Back Against Back Pain: Fitness and Wellness Solutions

GettyImages-866081050With millions of people around the world suffering from back pain, is there any hope for relief outside of traditional methods? Low back pain can be excruciating and immobilizing, but there is still hope. When dealing with any pain or injury, exercising might be the last thing that crosses your mind, especially if it’s chronic low back pain (CLBP). However, that’s exactly what is recommended and what can help.

Research is revealing that people who exercise and stay flexible are better able to manage pain than those who are sedentary. So my charge to anyone reading this, whether or not you are living with low back pain, stay proactive and make health and fitness a priority. Rather than be forced into reacting to an injury that might have you sidelined for months, take a step toward low back pain relief.

The Impact of Lower Back Pain

Alarming statistics reveal that the single leading cause of disability globally is none other than low back pain. According to the American Chiropractic Association, “Back pain is experienced by 31 million people at any given moment.” After all, it is the third most common complaint during doctor visits and accounts for more than 264 million lost work days annually.

What Causes Low Back Pain?

Low back pain can flare up and subside in the blink of an eye. Often there is no warning and there are no other accompanying symptoms. Pain can occur in varying intensities and pain levels. It is important to take back pain seriously because it is your body trying to tell you that there is something wrong and that you need to make a change. Common causes include the following:

  • Muscle strain/sprain
  • Muscle spasms
  • Bulging discs
  • Arthritis
  • Skeletal irregularities

What You Can Do: Fitness and Wellness Ideas

Fortunately, there are several precautionary steps that you can take to prevent low back pain episodes as well as further injury. Keep in mind that humans are complex beings and it is important to address overall health.

  • Start and maintain an exercise program. Our NIFS staff can work individually with members to develop a proper strength-training program that addresses cardiovascular fitness as well as flexibility and mobility.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. According to the National Arthritis Foundation, “Every pound of excess weight exerts about 4 pounds of extra pressure on the knees.” Therefore losing a few pounds can take pressure off the back and knee joints.
  • Limit and manage stress levels. Paying attention to stress levels can help you avoid behaviors that lead to obesity such as overeating and a sedentary lifestyle. If stress levels stay low, it can help improve overall health.

Always keep in mind that we are complex beings and it is important to address our overall health needs. It might take multiple methods to address back issues, but why not jump ahead and try to prevent them through proper health and wellness strategies? Visit www.nifs.org to find out more information, see the up-to-date Group Fitness Schedule, and start your fitness journey now.

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This blog was written by Cara Hartman, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: stress group fitness muscles weight management pain fitness and wellness lower back pain low back pain arthritis