We know that exercise is an important part of spine health. It helps to condition and strengthen our muscles and keep our weight down. But, as the temperatures drop, your favorite outdoor activities may become less appealing. That doesn’t mean you have to give up exercise for the season, though! Here are some exercises you can try that won’t require you to bundle up.
1. Join a class.
There are likely several different fitness classes available in your town that you can take. If you have a gym membership, you may be able to join in on classes at no additional charge. If you don’t have a gym membership and don’t plan on getting one, you may be able to attend classes at a fitness studio. For example, if you like yoga, many studios will let you pay per class, or on a monthly basis, so you aren’t having to commit to the classes long-term. You can often find classes tailored to your interests or level of ability. If you can’t find a class that works for you in your area, try an exercise video that you can do at home. Just make sure you have enough space to do the exercises safely, and that you pay attention to your form so you don’t make any back pain worse.
2. Go to an indoor track.
Walking can be great for back pain. It helps to get the blood circulating and increase stability without being too high-impact. It might be too cold to go for a walk outside, but you don’t have to give it up for the season if you enjoy it. Your local YMCA or gym may have an indoor track that you can use for walking. You can bring a friend or listen to music while you’re walking to keep you motivated.
3. Use an elliptical machine.
If walking or running is too jarring for your back, try an elliptical machine. Whether you use one in a gym or have one at home, an elliptical machine can mimic the motions of walking or running without the impact on the spine. It also allows you to adjust the incline and level of resistance so that you can find what works best for you.
4. Take your bike ride indoors.
Stationary bikes can provide great low-impact aerobic exercise. In fact, for those suffering from certain spinal conditions, a stationary bike may be better than a regular bicycle. For example, those suffering from stenosis are often more comfortable leaning forward, and an upright stationary bike allows them to lean forward without having to worry about losing balance. Spinning classes, which involve stationary bikes, are also very popular right now, and in many cities there are a variety of classes for differing levels of ability.
5. Swim in an indoor, heated pool.
Because the water supports the body, swimming can be a great form of exercise for those who have back pain. Swimming has very little impact on the spine. For this reason, water therapy programs can also make it easier for those who are in pain to perform exercises. It may be too cold in the fall and winter to get in an outdoor pool, but many local YMCAs and other large gyms offer an indoor heated pool for members.
6. Try strength training and stretching.
You can do strength training just about anywhere you have space, so it’s a great activity to do when the cold weather has you stuck inside. Plus, a strong core helps to support the spine, relieving some of the stress on it. Often, you can do these exercises without the need for any equipment, although you may wish to use small, inexpensive hand weights for some exercises. These types of exercises are also great if you are traveling, because they don’t require any equipment and won’t take up a lot of your time. You can find my suggestions for stretches and strength training exercises here.
Don’t let the cold weather get in the way of your fitness! There are plenty of things you can do indoors to help your back pain. Give some of these exercises a try, and see what works for you.