Inside Scoop: Take 10 minutes daily to do these 5 easy Pilates exercises for lower back pain, core strength and reversing the effects of sitting.
This post was submitted by Russell Thompson, Senior Physiotherapist and Director of Wyndham Physio and Rehabilitation.
A sedentary lifestyle is unfortunately the norm nowadays, with many people spending the majority of their day sitting at a desk at work. And, if the only option is to drive to work then this just adds on to the back pains and strains.
Therefore, one of the best ways to truly counteract the bad effects of sitting too long is to integrate an exercise regimen into your daily routine. This not only helps with lowering the risk of certain diseases like diabetes and dementia, but exercise has been scientifically proven to increase feelings of well-being, reduce pain, improve sleep and even prevent skin aging. Before we dive into Pilates exercises for back pain, let’s first look at some of the damage sitting all day can do.
HOW SITTING ALL DAY DAMAGES YOUR BODY
Beyond increasing your risk of various diseases, sitting can be the reason for body aches and pains. The human body is just not used to staying in this position for a very long time, and you may see the following effects.
Decreased Core Strength And Worse Posture
Back in the day, mothers and teachers always told kids to sit up straight. Beyond looking alert, sitting up is the right way to sit. Having the correct posture helps to engage your core even if you’re in a seated position. On the other hand, slouching is very bad for your core and can make it unbalanced.
Stress On The Spine
While sitting up straight is much better than slouching, there will still be added pressure on the back, specifically on the spine. It’s much more stress compared to standing or walking.
This is because your spine is composed of stacked discs that are supposed to stretch and expand. When they do so, they can absorb the blood and the nutrients better. Much like the other muscles in the body, the lack of movement of the spine and the surrounding tissue will mean it cannot function well. Worse, it can even lead to a herniated disc.
Weaker Legs And Glutes
The popular saying ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it’ summarizes this point quite easily. Not using your leg muscles and glutes, including the hamstrings, quads, and inner thighs which is what happens with a sedentary lifestyle can eventually lead to muscle atrophy or a decrease in muscle mass and the loss of strength.
The hips will also suffer when you sit for too long. Your hip flexors may shorten and become compact. Though this is not yet proven by studies, it can be easy to imagine that when you keep a mobile part of the body immobile for a long time, this will lead to some pains and aches.
Stiffer Neck And Shoulders
Hunching and craning the neck in order to look down can be dangerous, and this is something that happens often when you are at work. While this may not be avoidable, you just need to counteract these effects on the shoulder and neck by doing the right kind of exercises.
You can grab a quick DIY HIIT program with over 40 exercises for upper body, lower body, core & cardio that you can do anywhere below.
5 PILATES EXERCISES FOR LOWER BACK PAIN & CORE STRENGTH
1) Reclined Twist
- Step 1: You need to twist your spine in order to release the hips and lower back after a whole day of sitting.
- Step 2: On an exercise mat, lie on your back and lift the knees to your chest. Open your arms on a T-shape as an anchor.
- Step 3: Keep your shoulders on the mat. While breathing in, lower your knees to the right side.
- Step 4: Breathe out as you bring the knees back to the front.
- Step 5: Breathe in again and swing the knees to the left side. Breathe out to hit your core and then raise them back to the center. Repeat swinging for 2 minutes.
- Step 1: Lie on your back, stretching both legs straight from the hips and raise them high.
- Step 2: Swivel the toes open and bend the feet while keeping the heels together.
- Step 3: Anchor your navel to the spine and the lower back to the mat. Slowly drop the legs a couple of inches to the right while breathing in.
- Step 4: While breathing out, lift the legs up and down to the left side.
- Step 5: Alternate the sides for 2 more minutes.
3) Plank with Leg Lift
- Step 1: Do a plank. Go on your hands and knees and with arms straight, keep the wrists under the shoulders.
- Step 2: Push both feet back and stretch them through the heels.
- Step 3: Lift both arms to raise the neck and the shoulders while drawing the navel to the spine. Lengthen the tailbone towards your heels and at the same time, clench the quads.
- Step 4: Hold the position for a minute and then release.
- Step 5: Go back to the plank position and raise the right leg, keeping it straight to the hip level. Hold this position for half a minute and then switch legs. End by getting on the child’s pose, sitting with the hips on the heels and folding for half a minute before stretching out.
4) Straight Leg Stretch
- Step 1: Lie on your back and pull your knees to the chest. Spread your left leg out until it hovers above the ground.
- Step 2: Stretch the right leg up to the ceiling, then grab on to the back of the lower left leg as you try to lift the upper body, drawing the chin to the chest.
- Step 3: With raised shoulders, clench the navel into your spine. Hold it for 2 counts and then switch legs.
- Step 4: Repeat for 2 more minutes and then alternate the legs while lowering your back towards the mat.
- Step 1: Sit up straight and reach out your arms on both sides.
- Step 2: Twist the spine on one side while keeping the pelvis grounded.
- Step 3: Reach out with the hand that is opposite to the side of the foot (left hand to right foot, for example).
- Step 4: Keep your chest as open as possible.
- Step 5: Get back to the middle and switch the sides. Alternate, so that you cannot bounce the movement.
These 5 Pilates exercises for lower back pain and core strength will only take 10 minutes in total, while already being able to reverse the negative effects of sitting too much.
Russell Thompson is a Senior Physiotherapist and the Director of Wyndham Physio and Rehabilitation. He established the practice in 1983, and returned to full time study in 2001 to complete his Masters of Manipulative Therapy. He specialises in Physiotherapy, Sports Physiotherapy, and Rehabilitation.