Glance around the gym, the running track, or the aerobics class, and you’ll spot that the vast majority of people taking those classes and tending to their physical health actually do that mostly for the aesthetic benefits.
Sure, pursuing those noble goals is more than fine, it’s commendable. But more often than not, focusing on aesthetics only can get people injured, exhausted, and cause a slew of health issues, no matter how healthy the means to your end may be. The gym is essentially a healthy way to a strong, healthy physique, but only when you know your limits.
That is why expanding your goals to include your spine health is a great way to preserve your strength, resilience, and to make sure that your body will stay functional for years on end, sans the aches and pains. Since the spine tends to be the most frequently injured part of our body, here are a few tips to keep your back in check.
Lifting is not reserved for the gym
In case you are indeed a gym junkie and you’ve had your fair share of deadlift PRs, you know that the weight you put on the barbell is far inferior in terms of importance compared to your execution of the movement.
Correct posture, breathing, spine alignment, and your technique all trump the actual weight numbers. So, in the same way you protect your spine at the gym, with or without belts and other support and safety gear, you need to be mindful of how you’re using your body every day.
Mimic the same movement patterns you perform at the gym – they are, after all, the safest for your spine, and they help you prevent disc issues and pinched nerves.
Whenever you need to carry or lift something heavy, be mindful of your spine, avoid any overextended positions, and remember to brace your core. That way, you can prevent many injuries to your lumbar spine and years of chronic pain issues to follow.
Adjust your sleeping habits
Hopefully, you spend good six to eight hours every night sound asleep, and you do so consistently so that you can train, work, and enjoy your life without harming your health. Alas, even while you sleep, there are ways you can jeopardize your spine without being aware of it at all.
For example, sleeping on a bed that’s too small, with a mattress that doesn’t provide enough support or is too firm, with a pillow of subpar quality can all affect your spine.
If you’re prone to spine injuries, Dr. Shane Hennig recommends you use accessories such as smaller pillows or towels to ensure optimal support during the night. You can experiment with different sleeping positions, but make sure to choose a mattress and other sleep essentials that are good for your spine health.
Know when to see a professional
Sometimes, leading a sedentary life paired with poor lifting methods can result in occasional aches and pains that may seem irrelevant at first. However, while the pain itself doesn’t need to be alarming, there’s certainly cause for you to educate yourself and see a professional to check if there’s a need for treatment, rehabilitation, or even surgery.
You can check out educational videos and articles created by experts like Timothy Steel, and then determine the best course of action with their help. Sometimes, a group of symptoms may seem unrelated until you discover that you could be dealing with a pinched nerve in your spine or some form of misalignment.
Fortunately, the latest cutting-edge methods in surgery and recovery can help you treat and heal your injuries promptly and effectively.
Your healthy weight isn’t just about aesthetics
Our fitness and health awareness has indeed grown over the past several years, but we obviously make our decisions often guided solely by how we want to look, not what makes sense for our bodies. In that way, we do start exercising regularly and tweaking our diets, but those who aren’t too concerned about their physique might find it difficult to stick to a healthy lifestyle.
What about your spine health as your motivation to shed a few pounds? Adding too much fat onto your frame can add too much pressure and lead to spinal injuries and chronic pain linked to obesity.
Plus, in case you’re struggling with added weight, you might be more prone to injuries in general. If you’re already suffering from back pain, you’ll find that embracing a healthier diet to shed those extra pounds will also help you reduce if not eliminate that pain.
Get active beyond training
Finally, when your work forces you to sit for hours on end, a few hours a week at the gym won’t be enough to help counter the effects of a sedentary life. In case your work doesn’t allow you to take frequent breaks, eat lunch by walking, or exercise at the office (discretely, of course), you can alter your other habits during the day.
As an example, take the stairs and avoid the elevator, cycle or walk to work, or at least a part of the way if you’re too far. Get a pup to spend more time in the great outdoors, walking and playing. Find ways to lead a more active life every day, and your spine will be forever grateful.
From healthy dieting all the way to perfect movement execution, there’s so much you can do to prevent spinal injuries and other issues that may become lifelong problems as a result. Use these tips, and you’ll not just gain a wonderful physique, but you’ll also be able to stay mobile and independent well into your silver years.