Exercise is an important part of spine health and managing back pain. However, during the holidays, travel is inevitable for a lot of us, and our fitness routine often falls by the wayside. Even if you aren’t traveling, holiday events may leave you strapped for time and wondering how you’re going to fit in time for exercise. While you might not have the time or space to complete your normal fitness routine, there are some quick and easy moves you can do while you are traveling to keep up with your fitness and keep back pain at bay. The key is to choose exercises that work multiple muscle groups at the same time and can be done without the need for equipment or large amounts of space.
1. Hamstring Stretches
Tight hamstrings can contribute to low back pain. Luckily, it isn’t difficult or time consuming to stretch out your hamstrings. Lie on your back with your knees bent. Hold one leg with both hands behind the knee, and slowly straighten your leg until you feel a stretch. Hold for 20 seconds, and repeat with the other leg. Do this stretch 5 times total on each side.
2. Wall Squats
Wall squats target several areas, including the abs, buttocks, back, and thighs, so they are great to do if you don’t have a lot of time for a full exercise routine. By strengthening the back and surrounding areas, you can improve your posture and provide better support for your back. To do a wall squat, stand with your back against a wall and your feet 1 – 2 ft in front of the wall. Slide down until your knees are bent, keeping your lower back against the wall and your abs tight. Hold this position for 10 seconds, then slowly slide back up. Repeat 8 – 12 times. This exercise would be easy to do in idle time after a family dinner. All you need is an open wall.
3. Bird Dog
While the name may sound a little silly, this exercise is another great multitasker. It works the glutes, hips, abs, and back. It also helps with stability. To try this exercise, get on your hands and knees on the floor, keeping your abs tight. Lift and extend one leg behind you, making sure your hips are level and your lower back muscles don’t sag. Hold for 5 seconds, and repeat with your other leg. Do this exercise 8 – 12 times with each leg. If you want to make it more challenging, extend the arm on the opposite side of your extended leg, but only if you are able to do so while maintaining correct lower back and abdominal positioning.
4. Heel Raises
Holidays often mean longer lines, whether you’re waiting at the airport or waiting in a checkout line while buying gifts. While you’re stuck in line, you might as well use the time to your advantage. Heel raises are great for this situation because you can do them while standing in place. All you need to do is keep your weight distributed equally between both feet and slowly raise and lower your heels, repeating at least 10 times. To make it a little more challenging, hold the position for a few seconds before lowering your heels.
This move also works the core and glutes. Lie on your back with your knees bent. Push your heels into the floor, squeezing your buttocks and abdominals to lift your hips off of the floor until your shoulders, hips, and knees form a straight line. Avoid arching your back. Hold this position for 6 seconds, then lower your hips back to the floor. Repeat 8 – 12 times
6. Knee to Chest
This stretch is easy to squeeze in first thing in the morning or right before bed. All you have to do is lie on your back with your knees bent. Bring one knee in toward your chest, holding the leg behind the knee for support. Hold this stretch for 20 seconds, then release. Repeat 5 times on each side.
Don’t let travel or lack of time get in the way of your fitness. Doing these exercises will make it easier for you to get back to your normal exercise routine once the holidays are over. For more tips on how to avoid back pain over the holidays, follow me on Twitter @GleiberMD.