Three outdoor activities to help you get active and enjoy the season
When back pain hits, many of us gravitate to our couches thinking that we’ll feel better if we take it easy. However, a growing body of research shows that exercise, not rest, is the best medicine for chronic back pain.
Physical activity can strengthen muscles in the back and core, and improve flexibility in the spine, allowing us to move our bodies with greater ease and comfort. Being active doesn’t require a pricey gym membership or a trainer — just a desire to get moving. This autumn, head outside for some back-friendly outdoor activities.
Hit the trails
Lace up your running shoes, grab a sweater or light coat, and hit the trails for a walk or jog (ideally on dirt paths and grass, as they’re easier on your lower back than asphalt). Walking is a gentle, back-friendly workout that’s easy to do and safe for all fitness levels. Just like running, walking encourages the brain to release feel-good chemicals like serotonin and endorphins, and improves flexibility and muscle strength over time.
Here in St. Albert, the Red Willow Trail system and Riverlot 56 offers 85 km of recreational trails for walking, running, and cycling. In Edmonton, take advantage of the 160 km of maintained River Valley trails, where users can walk paved paths or hike through the trees.
Back to the playground
It may surprise you to learn that there’s a free outdoor ‘gym’ in your neighbourhood: the schoolyard playground. Use monkey bars for chin-ups to build strength in your upper back and core (even if you can’t pull up all the way, hanging from the bars with your elbows slightly bent will build strength). Parallel bars are almost identical to the dip bars found in gyms and are another great way to build strength in your core. Stand between the bars and hold yourself up with your arms, making sure your feet are off the ground and gently swing your legs forward and back.
Take your yoga mat outdoors
Many people with back pain swear by yoga as a strategy for both easing back pain in the moment, and building strength and flexibility to avoid pain in future. Until the snow flies, the great outdoors can offer a beautiful backdrop for yoga practice (especially if hot yoga isn’t your speed). Stretch out your mat in a nearby park or on your backyard patio, and try these back-friendly poses:
Start on your hands and knees. Round your back as you lower your head to create cat pose, then gradually arch your back and look up to create cow pose. Remember to breathe as you move between the poses, stretching your lower back and neck.
Big Toe pose:
Stand anywhere on your mat, with your feet six inches apart and parallel. Inhale and tighten your thigh muscles, then exhale as your reach for your toes, bending at the hip and being sure to keep your back straight – it’s okay if you have to bend your knees a little. Wrap your index and middle fingers around each big toe, then inhale and look up while still holding your toes. Exhale as you fold forward again and breathe deeply.
Lie on your mat with your knees bent, feet flat on the mat and hips shoulder width apart, with your arms beside you, palms down. Keeping your feet on the ground, raise your hips and clasp your hands together under your pelvis, if you’re able. Hold the bridge for a few breaths and then lower down slowly. Listen to your body: if it hurts to lift your bum too high, lower your hips until you don’t feel pain.
Contact Summit Physiotherapy to find out more about managing your back pain all year long. New clients are always welcome and a doctor’s referral isn’t needed.