Since childhood, it’s been drilled into our heads that we ought to “pick up our feet” and “stop slouching!” Well, it turns out there’s more truth to those nagging words than we thought. Proper posture is critical in maintaining a healthy spine, yet too many of us are unable to put this habit into practice. To offset the pressure we put on our spines each day, exercise can help to relieve and improve spine health. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, 10 minutes per day is all you need to perform some simple spine-strengthening exercises. Try these on for size.
Roll your way to a stronger spine
Stability balls will give you the extra support you need to perform these types of exercises. Lie on your stomach on top of your stability ball with your hands and feet on the floor for balance. While engaging your abdominal muscles, breathe out and lift your legs off the floor. While keeping your heels pushed out, walk your hands and body forward until your thighs are now resting on the ball. Slowly walk backwards to starting position.
Lie on your back with feet firmly planted on your mat/floor with knees bent. Stiffen your abs to stabilize your spine while lowering your shoulders back and down. Slowly lift both feet until your thighs are perpendicular to the mat (90-degree angle at the hips). Bring your right knee towards your chest in a straight line while extending your left leg outward and off the floor. While contracting your ab muscles, lift your left shoulder blade off the floor and rotate your trunk to bring your left elbow towards your right knee. Hold for two seconds and then repeat the same movement on the other side.
Come to a “tabletop” position with your hands and knees on the mat, body perpendicular to the floor. Make sure your wrists are aligned directly underneath your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips. As you inhale, lift your sit bones and chest toward the ceiling for cow pose. Then, exhale and round your back, drawing your belly button up toward your spine like a Halloween cat. Repeat for at least 10 rounds or until your spine is warmed up.
Front and side plank
Lie on the floor, face down, resting on your forearms with palms faced down. While engaging your core, lift your body slowly off the floor, coming to the tops of your feet. Hold this position for as long as you can while keeping your back and knees straight. If you’re up for a bit of a challenge, lie on your right side while resting your body on your right forearm, keeping your hips square and off the floor. Switch sides.
Though this pose is healthy for strengthening lumbar muscles, it should be avoided if you have chronic back pain. Come to a “tabletop” position with your hands and knees on the mat. While inhaling, bring your right knee in toward your forehead, rounding your spine. As you exhale, reach your right foot up toward the ceiling and look up while arching your back. Alternate between bringing your knee in and bringing your foot up four to eight times. Repeat on the left side.