If you’re active, you know that most forms of exercise are beneficial to your health and your back. But if you’ve already hurt your back or you’re susceptible to a back injury, talk to your spine specialist before starting any new sport or exercise program to ensure you don’t injure your back further.
You’re more apt to hurt your back playing a sport that causes you to twist and bend. At the Southeastern Spine Institute (SSI), you can even get insight from a physical therapist for ways to stay strong and healthy … and out of pain. In general, safe sports are low-impact activities, such as:
Choosing the Right Exercise
Consider swimming vs. walking. When you’re deciding between swimming vs. walking, you have to factor in your age and health. Certain medical conditions — like arthritis, chronic back pain, osteoporosis or heart disease — require careful planning. Also, if you’re pregnant or lead a sedentary lifestyle, you may need to modify your activities and your expectations.
Before you choose a physical activity, let your spinal physician complete a physical checkup. This is especially important if you’ve had previous back issues or surgery. You may also need to undergo focused physical therapy before you think about swimming vs. walking.
Swimming vs. Walking
According to a study by The Spine Journal, walking for less than 30 minutes actually does more harm than good if you’re suffering from lower back pain. So while a regular walking regimen generates many benefits, you need to walk longer than 30 minutes, and more than three times a week, to see any substantial improvement.
Swimming, on the other hand, is an effective way to remove kinks from your back muscles. The buoyancy of the water cushions your back as you swim. The ease and support you get from the water make swimming the perfect choice for pregnant women and people whose movements are restricted. Studies show that swimming regularly delivers a 90 percent improvement in back pain over a six-month period.
The backstroke and the breaststroke are recommended styles if you’ve suffered a back injury. If you don’t want to do laps right away, there are various other things you can do in the water. Walk in a shallow pool, try gentle rolls or bend your body forward and backward. You can do all sorts of movements without fear of falling down or hurting your back.
Tips for Exercising Right
It’s normal for you to want to recover faster. To pursue this goal, you may debate whether swimming or walking helps you heal faster. Exerting yourself too much during exercise sessions may be counterproductive, as you could set back your recovery.
Swimming is the best choice for many people, but talk to a physical therapist at SSI for personalized guidance. Then, follow these tips to reap the maximum benefits from your exercise sessions:
- Don’t jump into the pool
- Take it slowly
- Don’t make your movements jerky
- Hold on to the side of the pool for balance if you need it
- Use flotation devices to help stabilize your back
- Warm up before starting, especially if you aren’t used to exercising