How Much Exercise Is Enough for Lower Back Pain?

Some people with lower back pain (and some clinicians as well) view physical therapy or other healthcare services as treatments. It’s something you get for a period of time until your symptoms retreat slithering away into the background. At that point, you think you’re well.

Maybe you are but for many people short term therapy creates an illusion of sturdiness; a body with a veneer the thickness of an eggshell. You just think you’re good to go.

The solution for long term results and a veneer that’s closer to kevlar than an eggshell is consistent, progressive exercise. You have to exercise the rest of your life. Exercise is no longer an option. It’s a necessity.

But, how much is enough? Once, twice, three times per week? And, how do you find the time for it?

Researchers from the University of Alberta studied this very issue and discovered that people with chronically sore lower backs had 28% less pain and 36% less disability when they exercised four days per week as compared to two or even three days. People who exercised two or three days week also improved but not as much as the four days per week group.

Now, the hard part. How do you find the time?

You don’t. You make the time.

That’s the truth. No one ever just finds time lying around in a corner or under a mat or beneath a chair. You’re too busy. You’re pulled in a million directions running as fast as you can just to keep up. You make time. And, to do this, something else, some other interest or activity, must die.

You have 24 hours in a day and you should spend 7 to 8 hours sleeping. So, you’re down to 16 hours. Most people work 8; now you have 8 hours. And you probably have some commute time somewhere in there too so let’s say 2 hours total commuting. Now, you have 6 hours. And, you spend maybe 30 to 45 minutes in the morning getting ready so let’s be generous and call that an hour. Now, you have 5 hours. Spend 90 minutes at dinner – that leaves you with 3.5 hours. Spend an hour or two with your kids (if you have them and they’re young enough they still want to be around you :-), now you have about an hour and a half. Now, at this point,  is where the dying happens.

What you may want to do, after all this other stuff you’ve done, is read, surf the Internet, watch T.V. – something. But, what you need to do is exercise for 30 minutes. I can already hear the howls. “There’s no way I can do that!” Yeah, there is. The time is there. You have to take out a sword and strike down dead the thing that’s in your way – like T.V.

Now, before someone gets too upset, I know there are situations where you really don’t have the time. Maybe you’re a single parent with three kids and you work two jobs or maybe you’re working your way out of debt and can get, at best, 6 hours of sleep a night. You’re an outlier though. You are not the bell curve. You get a pass.

Otherwise, I’ll bet you can make the time. Remember, four days a week is best; two helps
. Start with two days. Just two days a week. The solution for most people is to insert exercise (and I prefer the term “training” but that’s another argument) at the beginning or middle of their day. Go to bed two nights per week, thirty minutes earlier and get up thirty minutes earlier in the morning. Get a routine together you can do at home and do it. It will take you at least a month (and the research on how long it takes to form a new habit is sketchy – some reports are one month and some reports suggest three months) until you quit grumbling and fighting the urge to go back to bed. You have to be disciplined – a disciple of yourself – and committed to the greater cause of your own wellbeing.

You can do it. I’ve seen it happen with hundreds of people. You just have to make a start. How about today?