Lower back pain and back injuries are the major cause of musculoskeletal problems among adults over the age of 50. It not only causes severe back pain but also limits functionality and forms other types of disability among elderly individuals. Without proper treatment, chronic lower back pain can worsen with time and may even lead to significant disability or musculoskeletal disorders such as lumbar spinal stenosis, osteoporotic vertebral fractures, spinal infection, and tumors. Therefore, to avoid lower back pain, physical therapists usually recommend rehabilitation and back strengthening exercises.
Exercise is an effective non-invasive treatment that does not include any form of side effects, making it the best choice for elderly patients. But not all exercises can be performed by elderly adults because of their age and physical limitations. Therefore, in this blog, we will discuss the best back strengthening exercises that adults over the age of 50 can perform without having an adverse impact on their overall health.
The Importance Of Back Strengthening Exercises
Lower back pain is a common health condition that is mostly seen in people over the age of 50. Without proper intervention, the back pain symptoms can improve spontaneously and can result in a chronic disorder or disability. Back pain can be the result of multiple factors including age, posture, work ergonomics, inactivity, injuries, etc.
Such factors can increase the chances of lower back pain or make the existing pain worse, leading to work-related disability and inability to perform daily activities. Moreover, back surgeries and steroid injections are expensive and may even result in other side effects. But if back pain is not treated on time, it may lead to severe conditions, such as:
- Lumbar spinal stenosis
- Muscle or joint atrophy
- Disc herniation
Therefore, it is crucial that adults over the age of 50, identify an optimal strategy to manage back pain before it gets worse. Back strengthening exercises are the most applicable treatment method in older patients. It can not only improve the back but the exercises can keep adults active, hence improving their overall quality of life. It can also prevent and fix weak or imbalanced back muscles and reduce back pain.
Some of the other benefits of back strengthening exercises include:
- Improves body stability, core strength, and balance.
- Reduce stiffness that is mostly experienced by seniors and increases mobility.
- Improves posture and helps adults in maintaining independence.
- Prevents any form of spine deformity such as kyphosis.
Best Back Strengthening Exercises for Adults Over 50
- The superman stretch
- Cobra lat pulldown
- Glute bridges
- Seated torso twist
- Bird dog exercise
*Not all strengthening exercises are suitable for everyone so please consult with your physiotherapist/doctor before you try them out.
1. The superman stretch
The superman stretch is a simple exercise that adults can easily perform. It is considered to be one of the most effective strengthening and stability exercises for the lower back. It does not need any heavy gym equipment and can be done at home itself.
Step 1: Lie flat on your stomach and extend your legs straight and stretch your arms straight over your head.
Step 2: Activate your abdomen muscles and gradually lift both your arms and legs into the air.
Step 3: Hold your head in the initial position itself and do not move it with your arms.
Step 4: Keep both your arms and feet in the air and hold this position for at least 2–3 seconds.
Step 5: Lower both your arms and legs. Repeat the same steps again for 2–3 sets of 8–12 repetitions.
2. Cobra lat pulldown
The lat pulldown exercise is meant for the largest muscle in the upper body, Latissimus Dorsi. This exercise is a great way for elderly people to stabilize their spine and shoulders, hence strengthening their back as well in the process.
Step 1: Lie flat on your stomach and bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle. Your forearms should be parallel to your spine
Step 2: From the initial position, extend both your arms forward to the top of your head.
Step 3: Now bring your hands back such that it touches the sides of your chest. Note that shoulder blades come close when you do this.
Step 4: Repeat the above steps again for 2- 3 sets of 6-12 repetitions.
3. Glute bridges
The Glute bridge exercises are a great way to stretch your hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. These exercises can improve your body posture and strengthen weak muscles.
Step 1: Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and both feet flat on the floor.
Step 2: Extend both your hands at a 45-degree angle to your spine and keep your palms flat on the floor.
Step 3: Engage your core muscles and slowly lift your hips off the floor without the help of your hands.
Step 4: Hold this position for at least 3 seconds while keeping your glutes engaged.
Step 5: Bring your hips back to the floor and repeat the exercise 8–12 times.
4. Seated torso twist
This is a seated exercise that elders can easily do at their home. This twisting exercise engages almost all your muscles in the core and back, hence strengthening the core and improving flexibility.
Step 1: Sit straight on a chair, keep both your feet flat on the floor and your spine upright.
Step 2: Raise both your arms, palms facing forward and bend your elbows at a 90 degree angle.
Step 3: Keep your upper arms in line with your shoulders, and your forearms parallel to the spine.
Step 4: Keep your lower body in the initial position itself and rotate your upper body slightly to the right.
Step 5: Hold this position for 5 seconds and bring your torso to the initial position, facing forward.
Step 6: Now rotate your body in the opposite direction and hold for 5 seconds.
Step 7: Repeat the rotation on each side at least 10 times and make sure to slowly rotate your torso without putting speed.
5. Bird dog exercise
The bird dog exercise strengthens your lower back, glutes, abdominals, and erector spinae muscles. It also helps to improve stability and balance in elderly people.
Step 1: Begin the exercise on all fours with your hands, knees, and feet on the floor.
Step 2: Make sure that your hands are directly under your shoulders and in a straight line. Similarly, your knees must be under your hips.
Step 3: Bring your face down such that you are looking at your stomach.
Step 4: Gradually raise your right arm off the floor and extend it straight forward.
Step 5: Similarly, extend your left leg backward. Your right arm and left leg must be parallel to the floor.
Step 6: Hold this position for at least 10 seconds before returning back to the initial position.
Step 7: Now repeat the same steps with your right leg and left arm.
Several studies have shown that back strengthening exercises and physiotherapy in Whitby are great for elderly people in alleviating pain and improving body functions. Therefore, older adults must consider strengthening exercises as an effective treatment to improve flexibility, balance physical functions, and to prevent any sort of disability. Exercises and physical activities are still effective ways to keep you fit, even if you are not suffering from lower back pain. It can strengthen your back and prevent any injuries that may result in chronic pain.
Cindy Williams is a blogger in Canada. She graduated with honors from the University of British Columbia with a dual degree in Business Administration and Creative Writing.