Doctors recommend exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle. A general goal is to aim for 30 minutes of moderate physical exercise each day. This might include activities such as brisk walking, biking, or an exercise class at the gym. Many people choose to exercise by participating in a sport like tennis, golf, or basketball. However, people often neglect to include any warm up exercises before the physical activity. A good warm up is essential to prevent injuries and protect our bodies. Injuries to the low back, neck, and upper spine can be eliminated with a proper warm up routine.
Low back pain is a common ailment among golfers. The low back is supposed to stabilize the body, but the rotation of a golf swing puts extra stress on that area. Tennis players can experience back pain due to twisting and trunk rotation. The movement of serving the ball can hyper-extend the low back and compress the lumbar discs. Strengthening the back muscles helps stabilize the spine and prevent painful injuries. Basketball players often suffer common back injuries including sprains and strains. Over time the discs, which act as shock absorbers for the spine, can herniate or degenerate. Sometimes one vertebrae can slip over another, causing low back pain. This is called degenerative spondylolisthesis, which may require surgery.
So, what types of warm up exercises are helpful in preventing injuries to the back? Some of the best exercises are those that strengthen the core muscles. Strong core muscles are essential to preventing injury. They improve balance and stability and don’t require any specialized equipment or a trip to the gym.
Here are several good core strengthening exercise to work into your pre-exercise routine.
Knee to chest exercise
- Lie on the back and draw one knee up to the chest. Hold in place with both arms while tightening the abdominal muscles and pressing the back to the floor. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat with the other leg. Then draw both knees up to the chest.
Lower back rotation
- Lie on the back with knees up and feet flat on the floor. Hold shoulders still while rotating the knees to one side. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Do 2 or 3 sets.
Bird dog exercise
- Start on all fours with knees under the hips and hands under the shoulders. Tighten the abdominal muscles and draw the shoulder blades together. Slowly raise the right arm and left leg. Extend them out straight and hold position for 10 seconds. Repeat with the left arm and right leg. Do 3 sets.
Poor posture also contributes to back problems by adding strain to the muscles and putting stress on the spine. Bad posture can turn minor aches and pains into persistent problems. Try to maintain good posture while exercising.
Don’t forget to stretch properly following physical activity or exercise. Stretching lengthens the muscles and releases trigger points that cause the muscles to tighten. Tight muscles don’t allow as much blood flow and inhibit the body’s response to inflammation and recovery post-workout.