How to Exercise with Back Pain as a Senior Male

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Exercise is an important step toward relieving back pain and preventing future pain, limitations and weakness. Learning how to exercise with back pain, however, is a challenge at any age, and it is particularly difficult for older men. As a result, too much stress on the back and related areas can make the pain and injury worse. A safe and effective program, therefore, will enable the use of exercise to build muscle, improve strength, and relieve pain. This post describes how to exercise with back pain as a senior male.

A 12-week training program for senior males focuses on the unique traits that older men tend to experience. There is a reliable body of scientific evidence to support the basic ideas that male physiology changes with age and some age- and gender-based changes require special consideration in exercise programs. Among the typical changes that occur are lower metabolism, a buildup of belly fat, and loss of muscle mass. The excess belly fat and loss of muscle mass can each contribute to back muscle weakness and back pain. For many older men, the key challenge is to learn how to exercise with back pain.

According to data from the National Institutes of Health, building muscle mass from weight and resistance training is a key to improving physical conditioning. They specifically cite the principle of progressive overload:

“Progressive overload has been called the mother principle of exercise training. The 3 elements of prescribed exercise are the activity’s frequency (how often), intensity (how hard), and duration (how long). Under the progressive overload principle, these 3 elements are manipulated to gradually increase the amount of work performed until maximal exercise potential is reached. Any exercise overload will cause functional capacity to increase, but adjusting intensity provides the biggest gains in performance capability. Applying greater resistance through progressive sessions results in increased lean muscle mass, decreased body fat, and increased work capacity and function.”

Male Aging

A 12-week training program for senior males must focus on the evidence that connects low testosterone to low muscle mass. Evidence suggests that as men age, lower testosterone contributes to loss of muscle mass. As men lose muscle mass, they experience further lowered metabolism, and a cycle of weight gain can set in. Low energy causes low levels of activity, and the sedentary lifestyle also contributes to weight gain. Much of the typical weight gain for older men occurs in the waistline; the increased belly fat is an unwanted appearance, but more important, it is a threat to health and well-being and a leading cause of back pain.

To be effective, the 12-week training program for senior males must address the low testosterone condition, tendency to lose muscle mass, and low energy syndrome. Exercise and weight training are ideal for building muscle mass and relieving back pain. Exercise will yield greater benefits as older men increase intensity and duration of the exercises in the 12-week program.

The 12-Week Program

The 12-week program for senior males has three parts that account for exercises: stretching, toning, and long-term fitness as listed below and in the following sections.

1.0 Stretching and Toning (Weeks 1 and 2)

2.0 Adding Exercises for Males Over 50 with Back Pain (Weeks 3 through 6)

3.0 Increasing Intensity and Duration (Weeks 7 through 12)

Part 1.0. Stretching and Toning (Weeks 1 and 2)

The initial two weeks of the 12-week program will prepare the body by stretching and toning. The stretching will relieve pain and increase flexibility in the lower, mid, and upper back.

1.1. Walking

Walking is an excellent overall body toning exercise. It is a lower-impact exercise than running or jogging, and impact is an important factor when exercising with back pain. The high impact to the body from running or jogging on hard surfaces can cause greater back pain and risk injury. iTrainer offers helpful guidance on selecting a treadmill. Visit iTrainer online and get information on using a treadmill; you can also browse a range of low-impact walking and running machines.

– Prepare for the Walk

Dress comfortably and allow for vigorous arm pumping; exercise wearing walking shoes or gym shoes that offer good traction, balance, and support on the arch and ankle.

– Do the Walk

Walking on a treadmill indoors or outdoors is a simple and controlled way to walk, and you can do it indoors in all weather conditions. Begin with 10 to 15 minutes per session and gradually increase until you can walk at a comfortable pace for 30 minutes without stopping.

1.2. Hamstring Stretches

– Prepare for the Hamstring Stretches

Place a small towel and an exercise mat or pad on the floor. Leave space to move your arms and legs. Lie down flat on your back with feet flat on the floor and knees bent.

– Do the Hamstring Stretches Movement

Lying on your back, lift one leg all the way up, keeping the knee bent. Either hold the thigh or loop a towel over the calf and pull gently down toward your chest. Hold the point where you feel a tension in the muscle in the back of the leg (hamstring). Hold the spot for a count of five and release and lower the leg. Perform the same movement on the other side for one set.

1.3. Back Stretch

The entire back can lose flexibility and strength when you have back pain. Pain makes us avoid moving too much, and then stiffness creates more pain and less flexibility. To break the cycle, you must stretch and loosen the entire back area. This stretch loosens the lower, middle, and upper back.

-Prepare for the Back Stretch

Lay a mat or pad on the floor and allow for room to swing legs and arms.

– Do the Back Stretch

Lie on your left side; put the right knee over to touch the floor and the top arm at your side. Then lift the top arm in an arc and try to touch the floor behind you. Go as far as is comfortable and hold for a count of five. Return the arm to the side. To complete the stretch, turn to the other side, turn the top knee to the floor, and repeat the arc motion with the top arm.

1.4. Back Press-up

The lower and mid-back requires strengthening when exercising with back pain; the 12-week program will strengthen the lower back and the abdominal muscles that work in tandem and provide support for the spine.

– Prepare for the Back Press-up

Lay an exercise mat or pad on the floor with space to move your arms and legs. Lie face-down with arms folded so that the hands are under the shoulders and the elbows press to the floor.

– Do the Back-Press-Up Movement

With hands pressed to the floor and under your shoulders, press down on the hands and elbows and lift your head and shoulders. This is a small movement, and you should raise just till you feel a tension in the lower back. Hold the spot for a count of five and then drop slowly back to the floor. Do this movement five to eight times for one set.

1.5. Modified Abdominal Crunch

– Prepare for the Abdominal Modified Crunch

Lay an exercise mat or pad on the floor with space to move your arms and legs.

– Do the Modified Abdominal Crunch Movement

With hands behind the head or folded across the chest. Make a small movement to lift your head, neck, and shoulders all at once. Hold at the point where you feel the tension in your upper abdominal muscles. Count to five and slowly drop back to the floor. Repeat the motion 8 to 10 times to make a set.

Part 2.0. Adding Exercises to Reduce Back Pain

After two weeks of stretching and toning in Phase One, you can move forward in the program, add new exercises, and increase the intensity.

2.1. Wall Sits Movement

Supported exercises work well for men over 50 who have back pain; the wall sit is a squat with support for the back. The wall sit movement uses a nearby wall to support the back while strengthening the back, legs, and core.

– Prepare for Wall Sit Movement

Locate a wall with open space to allow for a solid placement of both feet on the floor. Stand with feet at about shoulder width apart.

– Do the Wall Sit Movement

Stand about one foot away from the wall with solid footing and lean back slowly until your back rests against the wall. Then slide your body down the wall by bending your knees. Keep your back pressed tight to the wall. Go down until your knees begin to bend and hold that position. Hold the flexed position and count to 10, and then slide slowly back up to the leaning position. Each sitting motion is one repetition, and you should do 8 to 10 reps per set.

2.2. Pelvic Tilt

– Prepare for the Pelvic Tilt

Lay an exercise mat or pad on the floor with space to move your arms and legs.

– Do the Pelvic Tilt Movement

Make a small upward movement with your pelvis and tighten the lower abs. Focus on the point of tension and hold it for a count of 10. Release the tension and return to the starting position.

2.3. Core Program Exercises

The back and spine get needed support and strength from the core muscle groups. These include the abdominal muscles, hips, thighs, and chest.

2.3.1. Seated Side Bends

This movement will strengthen the middle and lower back.

– Prepare for the Seated Side Bends

Prepare by placing a chair in an area with some open space for your feet. Sit in the chair with feet flat on the floor. Put the right hand behind the head and the other at your side pointing down toward the floor.

– Do the Seated Side Bends Movement

Take a breath in and focus on tightening the muscles along your left side and squeeze the muscles. Lean to the left side with the hand pointing to the floor and bend slowly as if trying to touch the floor. Then slowly exhale and return to your initial position. Do this five times and repeat on the opposite side to make one set.

2.3.2. Core – The Bridge

The bridge will strengthen the lower and mid back and the corresponding muscles on the abdomen and thighs.

– Prepare for the Bridge

Lay an exercise mat or pad on the floor with space to move your arms and legs. While on your back, keep your knees bent and feet pressed against the floor.

– Do the Bridge Movement

Tighten your core, raising your hips to the height of your knees and chest, being careful not to arch your lower back. Hold and count to five, and then lower down to the starting position.

2.3.3. Core- The Superman

This exercise movement strengthens your lower back, helps with balance, and improves core stability.

– Prepare for The Superman

Lay an exercise mat or pad on the floor with space to move your arms and legs, and then lie face-down on the floor. Stretch both arms forward and spread the feet slightly. Relax and breathe normally with arms outstretched in front of you.

– Do the Superman Movement

Lift your head, left leg, and right arm at the same time. Lift about three or four inches, hold for a count of three, and then lower to the start position. Repeat the opposite combination on the other side to make one repetition.

2.3.4. Core- the Leg Lifts

The leg lifts work the lower abdominals and the lower and middle back areas. The exercise uses a small movement so as not to stress the lower back.

-Prepare for the Leg Lifts

Lay an exercise mat or pad on the floor with space to move your arms and legs.

-Do the Leg Lifts Movement

Lie flat on the pad on your back. Relax the legs and place feet slightly apart. Lift one leg at a time but only about three to five inches above the floor. While lifting, squeeze the lower abs and hold for a count of five. Repeat with the other leg to make one repetition. Do five repetitions for a set.

The model exercises presented in this article break the 12-week training program for senior males into smaller segments of two weeks to begin, and groups of three and six weeks for the advanced phases. The model exercises use movements that protect and support the back while building strength and older users learn how to exercise with back pain.

3.0 Increase Duration (Weeks Seven through Twelve)

You must increase the workload of the stretching and exercises to increase the health benefits. For example, walking on a treadmill offers opportunities to increase workload by increasing the time, raising the incline angle, and increasing the speed. The customization plays an important role in the final weeks of the program and for long-term benefits. You can visit iTrainer.com to review treadmill benefits and uses and purchase a custom training program.

You can increase the load by adding additional sets to each exercise. Increase each exercise by one set after the initial two weeks and again after the sixth week. By adding to the workload, you will increase the strength and pain relief benefits while adding flexibility. You can superset the movements by adding small amounts of weight. You can magnify the workload of the movements that you do in this program by holding light plates or dumbbells while performing them.

– Long-Term Exercise for Men Over Fifty

The 12-week program is a great beginning, but it will not solve the long-term need for fitness and exercise. For most older men, the solution may be simple and effective; it is weight training to the rescue.

Adding weight resistance is important at this stage. Research has shown that muscle loss due to aging can be slowed and reversed in most individuals. Strength training can add muscle at any age and enhance connective tissues that support the back and spine.

The key is to use weight or resistance that requires some effort to move. Ideally, you would perform 10 to 15 movements in a row to make a set; you would rest between sets. In phase two, you should use two sets per major muscle group including the arms, back, chest, hips, abdomen, and shoulders. The frequency of exercise is a major factor in its effectiveness. With proper diet, exercising two to three times per week allows for rest, recovery and muscle building.

You can start off with weights as little as one pound to start. You can experiment with standard movements like curls, presses, bench presses, and squats. If you use a gym, you can add machines to your exercise plan according to the instructions.

In conclusion, this article has provided information on how to exercise with back pain as a senior male. For a custom program that pinpoints your needs and preferences, you can select a personal fitness trainer to develop a training program at iTrainer designed for your age, condition, and fitness goals.

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