Weight loss and exercise are wonderful ways to prevent back pain, but did you also know that healthy movement could reduce existing back pain? It’s true. Researchers at Stanford University found that overweight people who increased the amount of time they spent moving by just 20 minutes daily reduced their risk of back pain by 32%. Weight loss has also been tied to a reduction in back pain. Shedding pounds through diet and exercise supports your back health in numerous ways. Here’s why, and later, how to lose weight in a healthy way.
1. Eating healthy, anti-inflammatory foods does a body good
Overweight people may eat diets full of fatty and sugary foods. These foods create inflammatory proteins that aggravate back pain. Conversely, eating powerful, healing foods such as cherries, salmon, and green tea fills your body with antioxidants that reduce inflammation and may reduce pain.
A study conducted at Michigan State University found that anthocyanins, the antioxidant that gives cherries their signature red color, may inhibit pain in essentially the same way as anti-inflammatory drugs. Other brightly colored fruits and vegetables contain similar natural compounds that fight pain. As a bonus, eating fruits and vegetables instead of processed, high-fat food can help people lose weight.
2. Exercised-induced weight loss builds muscle strength and reduces inflammation
Strengthening muscles in your abdomen and those surrounding your spine helps support your back and reduce pain. Without exercise, those same muscles weaken, leaving your spinal column to support the body’s weight alone. In overweight people, that task overwhelms the spine and often leads to back problems.
A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that overweight and obese men who exercised for one hour each week reduced their risk of back pain by 20%. Researchers attributed the reduction to exercise’s work in reducing inflammation often found in overweight people.
3. Weight loss reduces the risk of conditions that may lead to back pain
Carrying excess weight and living a sedentary lifestyle have been linked to many health conditions, such as osteoarthritis and herniated discs, both of which can lead to back pain. Losing weight and exercising promotes a healthy skeleton and can reduce back pain.
Five Tips to Lose Weight
1. Eat every meal
Skipping meals makes people hungry. And when extreme hunger strikes, it’s very difficult to make good eating choices. You may eat a half a bag of chips while waiting for your lunch to cook or scarf down a candy bar because your blood sugar has dropped and you need food now!
Instead of skipping meals, eat plenty of food, and eat often. While many people find three meals a day plenty, some research has shown that eating more frequent, smaller meals may be effective for supporting weight-loss efforts.
2. Seek support
Some people can lose weight on their own. Others may find it helpful to embark on their journey with the support of a group, like Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig. These groups help people by giving food guidelines. They also provide accountability to those who need a little extra push to stay on track with eating goals.
These programs provide professional support as well as the opportunity to connect with others working to lose weight, but they can be costly. If you’d like to find encouragement without the high price tag, consider joining a weight loss support group like those on Meetup.com.
3. Eat family meals
Busy schedules prevent many families from eating together, but research has found gathering around the dinner table may help you lose weight.
Research published in The Journal of Pediatrics found that family meals—even one or two each week—helped protect against rising levels of adolescent obesity.
In addition, eating home-cooked meals with family can help you avoid eating fast food and junk food.
4. Plan ahead to lose weight
Changing habits is never easy, but good planning helps create the inertia needed to shift diet choices.
Each week, perhaps on a Saturday or Sunday, plan ahead what you’ll eat for the following week. Find a few healthy recipes, whether on a food blog or from a cookbook, and buy all the necessary ingredients so you have them on hand.
Achieve your desired weight loss by knowing what speed bumps you’ll face and plan ways to get around them. The obstacles will never go away, but you can develop ways to succeed despite them.
5. Indulge strategically
If you love chocolate, or cake, or ice cream, designate a cheat day where you can enjoy your favorites. You might also designate meals where you enjoy any fried or unhealthy food you want.
Losing weight is more about the choices you make over time, and not those made on any one given day. Taking the opportunity to enjoy delicious, but not-as-healthy foods makes eating healthy a true, sustainable lifestyle. It’s better to cheat once a week than to avoid cookies for months and binge by eating a whole box.
By looking to make lifestyle shifts, instead of depriving yourself on a restrictive diet, your plan to lose weight transforms from a torturous endeavor into a wonderful adventure. One characterized by learning about health and making choices every day to become a healthier, slimmer, more vibrant you.
Ready to talk to a doctor about treating your back pain. Find one here.