Exercise with a bad back
January 6, 2004 6:38 AM   Subscribe

I have bad back problems and want to exercise in such a way that my back will not get stressed. Situps can lead to steroid shots in the back so you can see I'm rather limited. Also, I have no ACL in one knee so high impact is out. While we are at it, solo activities (like swimming) are mind numbingly boring so they are out too. What are some things I can do to hold off the gut?
posted by Dagobert to Health & Fitness (16 answers total)
posted by thomcatspike at 6:57 AM on January 6, 2004

I followed the program spelled out in No More Aching Back. 15 minutes a day, very low stress. I did the exercises every day -- every day -- for a year. Worked for me.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:58 AM on January 6, 2004

Yoga. I had back surgery, so I understand your fears, and I found that yoga was a great way to get in shape. I managed to find a drop-in yoga class that was specifically for people with back problems, but I would imagine if you found a beginners class and told your teacher your concerns, your teacher will help you with the poses (giving you modified options when appropriate) and you would be able to get a good work out (and don't let anyone fool you into thinking it's not a work out--it certainly is!) without stressing your back or knees. I also got this book for additional guidance at home.
posted by macadamiaranch at 7:06 AM on January 6, 2004

macadamiaranch just gave you (IMHO) the best solution. I had a discectomy for a herniated disc about two months ago, and I have had two torn ACL's and two arthroscopic knee surgeries. I'm a good athlete, and I'm into very hard , intense workouts. Bikram Yoga (Go here to find a studio near you) is a great all-over workout that is good for your back, joints, etc. It is very, very difficult, so be forewarned. It is also conducted in a room heated to upwards of 95 degrees F so it is effective at melting off pounds as well. Each class is 90 minutes and undergoes a standard routine so that one classes regimen should be barely discrenible from another class. Good luck!
posted by vito90 at 7:12 AM on January 6, 2004

I've found that a light to medium upper body weight-lifting regimen WITH a back support belt helped me build muscle, burn fat, and keep my occasionally wonky back pain-free. Key is proper warm-up, technique, and cool-down. And chicks dig my biceps (I imagine).
posted by jalexei at 7:23 AM on January 6, 2004

I'll just back up the Yoga suggestions. You can do as much as your body will allow & a good teacher will help you.
posted by i_cola at 7:24 AM on January 6, 2004

Don't know if you've helped out Dagobert, but you've convinced me on yoga - I've been thinking about it for my back for a while. Think I'll also get the MrMoonPie book.

Dagobert: In Belgium I suppose hillclimbing is also out, but shouldn't you be ideally set for cycling, its the uphills that put the most strain on and if you can avoid them then cycling can be useful, just build yourself up, maybe find some likeminded people, enjoy a few hours of going out and sampling non-lite beers in the country while also toning up.

Stretching everyday is great advice though, and should take 10 miuntes max.
posted by biffa at 7:26 AM on January 6, 2004

I'm going to go completely different here.

In the late 80's I ran a back rehab facility; we handled the patients that just couldn't find other solutions (some post surgical, some pre- who just didn't want to get cut, some who the doctors just couldn't figure out what to do with.)

About 80% of them got results at our facility; which is right about where they should be. The back is chronically weak.

Take a look here for the equipment - MedX Corporation. This is the guy who invented Nautilus (strength curve based training, isolation, balanced resistance) who most of the strength training industry copied and stole from. A crazy guy, but frankly, revolutionary.

Unfortunately, they don't list any locations near you. 004 Kieser Trainingsbetriebe in Deutschland

But I'd suggest for anyone with a back problem to try this out. (Same thing for a neck problem.) They're just amazing tools.
posted by filmgeek at 7:47 AM on January 6, 2004

A note on cycling: it is among the best no-impact knee exercises available IF AND ONLY IF you have your seat height set correctly, and only if you use your gears wisely (aka: spin fast, not hard).

Unfortunately, I threw out my Bicycling magazine article on determining the correct seat height. It involved measuring one's inseam, then setting the crank-center:seat-top distance to something on the order of XX% of that. Or maybe it was pedal-center:seat-top.

There should be an avid cyclist here that can fill in the blank.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:51 AM on January 6, 2004

Swimming alone can be pretty borring. Consider trying Master Swimming. You don't have to have a specific skill level to start, you swim with a team, you (may, if you wish) compete, and the exercise is fantastic.

Here are some contacts for masters swimming in Belgium:

Aesseloos, Jaqueline
National Secretary
Federation Royale Belge de Natation
Esmoreitlaan 29/6
2050 Antwerpen, Belgium

Maes, Lea
Kalishoekstraat 121, B-9120
Melsele, Belgium Jacques Leclercq
28 Ru Leon Pourbaix, B-6030
Marchienne-au-Pont, Belgium

Here's a swim club from Belgium.
posted by daver at 9:47 AM on January 6, 2004

Water aerobics. A good instructor should be able to modify any exercise if necessary for your back.

As to bicycle seat height-in my spinning class they have us set it so our knee has a very slight bend when the pedal is in the down position.

And depending on what ails your back, you may be able to find a stretching class that will help. A lady in mine said her back pain left after two weeks.

I'm spoiled as my exercise center is connected with our local hospital, and does rehab as well. All the instructors are very knowlegeable in how to modify exercises when one has particular problems.
posted by konolia at 10:44 AM on January 6, 2004

Living in Belgium, you should have no problem finding a competent bike shop - and you can always try a recumbent if a standard upright bike just doesn't work. Find a group to ride with (check with your local cycling club).

Note to others: In Belgium, cycling is a fairly popular sport unlike in the USA. I've been to races there with 50,000 paying spectators.

This advice is offered with the utmost respect since it seems to me that an American offering cycling advice to a Belgian is something like a Belgian offering an cowboy advice on how to punch a dogie.
posted by Icky at 11:01 AM on January 6, 2004

With the utmost respect, blow me.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:21 PM on January 6, 2004

On re-reading, maybe Icky a self-effacing American living in Belgium, not a rude Belgian ragging on me for having the audacity to comment on seat height. In which case, I repectfully take back the blow.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:54 PM on January 6, 2004

Unfortunately, I threw out my Bicycling magazine article on determining the correct seat height. It involved measuring one's inseam, then setting the crank-center:seat-top distance to something on the order of XX% of that. Or maybe it was pedal-center:seat-top. There should be an avid cyclist here that can fill in the blank.

The missing numbers: Multiply your inseam (floor to crotch) by 88.3%, then subtract 4mm if you have clipless pedals (from the November 2003 issue of Bicycling). Their are other methods out there to determine seat height, but this one has worked well for me.

However, a recumbent bicycle might be a better bet for you, what with the back problems.
posted by teg at 10:54 PM on January 6, 2004

I'll second the motion for water aerobics (also called AquaFit). Low or no impact, depending on the depth of the water, a good class will include strength training, stretching and toning and cardio, all while being supported by the water instead of your damaged ACLs. Plus, because it's a class, led by an instructor and with other members there, it's not as mindnumbingly boring as just swimming.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:27 AM on January 7, 2004

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