Spring’s beauty beckons us and we are back out digging in the garden, hiking along forested trails or wandering through our neighbourhood.
There are so many benefits to just 30 minutes of walking every day as stated in a Harvard Review article. It can increase our cardiovascular fitness, strengthen bones, reduce excess body fat, and increase muscle strength and endurance. Walking daily has also been noted to help reduce the development of conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. Or, if you are already dealing with any of these conditions, walking is one of the best recommendations for improving your general state of wellness.
Essential to a successful walking routine is a strong core. Our core muscles are located in the front back and sides of our lower mid-section inclusive of our hips. Sit ups and crunches were once considered the best exercises to build and maintain a strong core. No longer, as they focus primarily on the stomach muscles and can cause low back pain.
A healthy low back helps to stabilize our spine. The muscles and ligaments surrounding our spine weaken with age or from an injury. This can make movement, especially twisting, stretching, lifting, and bending difficult. Our lower back often compensates for the lack of mobility and in trying to stabilize us ends up taking the brunt of the action. Also, with age, the disks in between the vertebrae become less able to act as shock absorbers. For this reason it is very important to wear the right walking shoes for your body. Our shoes should provide cushioning, proper arch placement for your foot and good lateral support. If new aches and pains occur, it is probably time to change your shoes.
Sometimes when you start to cycle, walk or run you develop pain in different areas. The culprit for the cause of pain in your legs, hips or shoulders may be coming from a location where you do not feel pain. Often, shoulder pain is triggered by the muscles of your neck or upper chest. Low back issues can be the cause of pain down the leg or even the lateral muscles of your hip.
Massage therapy is an excellent modality for locating the true source and bringing relief. However, home care exercises are the key to managing the problem and preventing future problems from developing. Listed below are two simple exercises which if done daily will bring relief, help to maintain your muscular health and guard against the occurrence of future issues.
The Bridge: This is one of my favourite exercises for strengthening the core and reducing low back pain. It can even relieve referred pain into the leg(s). Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift and hold your buttocks off the ground. Hold this position for a count of 10. As you get stronger, build your repetitions up to 10/day.
Modified Bridge: This variation is helpful to prevent hyperextending your lower back. Place your hands under the small of your back and flatten your low back against your hands, palms on the floor. Lift your hips and hold for a count of 10. You will not be able to lift up as high but the purpose of this variation is to keep your low back muscles in a safe position during the exercise. Repeat this exercise 3 times to start and build up to 10 repetitions per day as your strength increases.
Modified Plank: Start on your hands and knees. Tighten your abdominal muscles and lower your upper body onto your forearms, aligning your shoulders directly over your elbows and keeping your feet in the air behind you. Keep your back straight, making your body as much like a “plank” as possible. Hold the position up to a count of 10 and then return to the starting position. Start with 3 repetitions and build up to 10/day.