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Back pain can and does affect nearly everyone, but if you're overweight or obese there's a chance you may experience it a bit more than the average person. A study published by the "American Journal of Epidemiology" found that overweight and obesity increase the risk of low-back pain, which can be caused by a variety of factors including increased mechanical load on the spine, chronic inflammation and decreased spinal mobility. Regularly performing a variety of exercises that improve strength and flexibility in the back may help to lessen back pain.
Simply improving the mobility of your back can go a long way toward improving the condition of your muscles and reducing back pain. These types of exercises can be done as a scheduled back workout or just whenever you're sitting in a chair. Roll your shoulders, move your torso forward and back, lean from side-to-side and try twisting from side-to-side. Only move as far as you comfortably can without pain, discomfort or losing your balance. Begin with five to 10 movements in each direction, gradually increasing the number of movements and the range of motion used in each direction.
Strong back muscles are particularly important for obese individuals -- excess body weight increases the stress on the back and spine. Body weight and resistance exercises can both be useful to improve the overall condition of your back muscles. Shoulder packing, in which you simply pull your shoulder blades down and back and hold for several seconds, will strengthen your upper back. You can also try resistance band rows to target the bulk of your back. Secure a resistance band to a sturdy object and sit in a chair facing the band. Grasp the band with both hands then, with your back straight, bend your elbows and pull the band toward your chest. Slowly return to the starting position.
As far as a healthy back goes, flexibility is just as important as adequate strength. The spine is a very mobile part of the body; when you're sedentary and/or obese this mobility can be limited. Take a few minutes every day to stretch the major muscles in your back to improve flexibility and decrease back pain. Stretch the muscles along your spine by sitting in a chair facing a table or platform. Place your hands palms down on the table with your arms extended. Gently press your arms down while arching your back until you feel a mild stretch. To stretch your upper back, bring your right arm across the front of your body and gently pull it with your left hand to stretch your upper back. Repeat the stretch with your left arm. Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds.
Although swimming is not a specific back exercise, it is a very effective way to work nearly every muscle in your back along with the rest of your body. Swimming is ideal for obese populations due to the fact that the buoyancy of the water dramatically reduces the impact on joints and muscles. The resistance of the water makes moving through it, whether you're swimming or just walking, a challenge resulting in stronger muscles and improved cardiovascular fitness. According to the Obesity Action Coalition, while in the water, you will also be stretching your muscles and increasing your mobility, and you have 80 to 90 percent less weight pressing on your bones and joints.
Strength and flexibility exercises are one of the best ways to improve and prevent back pain. A strong back is crucial for maintaining proper posture and keeping your torso upright without straining muscles. To prevent back pain, MayoClinic.com recommends engaging in cardiovascular exercise regularly, building muscle strength and flexibility and maintaining a healthy weight. Consult your health care provider before beginning a new exercise routine.