Exercise don’ts to protect from injury
Strong muscles are like guy wires that hold the body’s structure in place. This is especially important for back health. As we age, our bones and muscles become less resilient. Preserving the natural S curve in the spine is the key to back comfort. Fit bodies and fit backs go together. As back surgeon Arthur White says, “The flag looks good if the pole is straight.” Before starting an exercise regimen to build back strength, familiarize yourself with these exercise don’ts to protect yourself from injury.
Avoid sudden, jerky, bending-over movements.
Backs often “go out” when you drop something and reflexively bend over or twist to pick it up. Mentally program yourself to stop before you stoop.
Don’t speed up sit-ups.
Avoid full sit-ups in which you place your hands behind your head and pull your neck and back all the way up into a sitting position. This is too hard on the neck joints and the lower back. Instead, do a partial sit-up or crunch by lying with your lower back flat on the floor, bending your knees, and lifting your head and shoulders up only about a quarter of the way, with your arms crossed over your chest.
Twist the hips, not the back.
Twisting the top half of the body independently of the lower half with those soft-gel lumbar disks caught in the middle is – ouch! Rotate wisely. If you’re doing rotation warm-ups, say with a golf club or a baseball bat, be gentle and don’t jerk quickly or rotate too far. The older the back, the more careful you have to be about jerky, rotating motions. When doing rotating motions, I imagine that my shoulders and hips are connected. Practice by putting your hands flat against your outer thighs, and turn your hips and shoulders together as a unit. Your lumbar spine will love you!
Don’t bear too much weight on your back.
As you age, you have to be increasingly careful when lifting weights to strengthen back muscles. Do this with the supervision of a knowledgeable trainer. Be especially wary of barbell presses in which you place the bar behind your neck and lift. Simple walking is always good for the back, since the back bones have to share the weight bearing.
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