Sitting for hours on end isn’t just bad for activity levels. It also permanently disrupts the energy cycle. Moving too little leads to easier weight gain. The extra pounds then put a strain on your back. Movement is a key factor in combating excess weight, losing weight and relieving the strain on your back. Movement boosts your metabolism and the body’s own ‘calorie-burning engine’ is set in motion.
However, relying on unbalanced diets to shed pounds is not the way to go. There is only one way to get in shape and, above all, to stay in shape in the long term: changing eating, drinking and cooking habits to a healthy, low-fat and balanced diet – always in combination with movement and exercise.
Granted, we humans are creatures of habit. Changing your eating habits isn’t easy – it takes a lot of willpower and perseverance. The good news is that as soon as the first successes appear and you start feeling good in your own skin again, it acts like a shot of motivation. Furthermore, eating healthily doesn’t automatically mean that you can’t eat tasty foods. Healthy food can be a real treat. There’s a reason why one of the best and most popular cuisines in the world is Mediterranean – and who would say that it doesn’t taste good? In fact, it corresponds to what most nutritionists would now recommend as a healthy, varied diet: lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, a little lean meat, lots of fresh fish and seafood, nuts, low amounts of high-fat dairy, but high-quality vegetable oils.
Valuable tips and tricks, suggestions and recipes for light, healthy and tasty meals can be found online or in cookbooks. The range of special cooking courses has also become extensive. Such courses help you adjust your cooking skills with like-minded people and to enjoy cooking.
If you don’t learn it as a child, you’ll never learn it as an adult – or it might just take a lot more effort. This age-old wisdom applies not only to things like reading, writing and learning foreign languages, but also to physical skills. The foundation for exercise, a mindful lifestyle and a healthy back is laid in childhood. Adults who regularly exercised as children and who always moved a lot benefit from it later on in life. This is because a significant part of our physical, mental and psychosocial skills development occurs in childhood – through movement.
However, this technologised world also massively influences our children. Instead of romping around outside with other children, little ones now sit for hours in front of the television, play online games on their smartphones or spend their free time at a computer. School sports cannot compensate for the resulting lack of exercise. Furthermore, if any timetable cancellations have to be made owing to staff shortages, physical education lessons are usually the first to be cancelled. As a result, the physical fitness of younger generations is rapidly decreasing. In addition, unbalanced diets and obesity are on the rise.
Be a role model and become active together
To blame the issue solely on the consequences of digitisation or on schools, however, would be too short-sighted. Parents hold the reins and must ensure that their children keep moving and grow up healthily.
The first step is becoming aware of your own role model status – young children learn by mimicking the behaviour of adults, especially their parents. This means that if parents have their smartphones in their hand all day or spend their time in front of the TV or computer, their children will do the same. Conversely, this also means that if parents are physically active, exercise, eat healthily, do a lot of outdoor activities and commute to work by cycling rather than driving, this will rub off on their children.
In addition, joint activities such as swimming, cycling, inline skating, ball games or varied hiking trips promote a desire to move. Even little couch potatoes are guaranteed to become active and lively again. This is because children have a natural urge to move – they want to run, climb and jump. People who are enthusiastic about exercise in their childhood usually retain their enthusiasm for it as an adult. These are the best foundations for staying physically fit and flexible, as well as preventing back pain.
Strong muscles and movement for a healthy back
The phenomenon of ‘back pain’ still puzzles doctors. One thing is certain, however: physical activity is the best aid against pain and for a healthy back. Movement and regular exercise are by far the best prescription. In the same way that a strong immune system, in contrast to a weak one, is able to successfully fight off cold viruses, well-exercised, strong back muscles can withstand particularly heavy loads without being damaged.
If, on the other hand, your back is not in shape and the muscles are too weak, it is particularly susceptible to tension and pain even from lighter loads. Most people with back problems have one thing in common: they lack the required muscle strength. It’s also often not only the back muscles, but also the abdominal muscles that are weak.
Core muscles in particular ensure the stability and mobility of the back. As a result, the better the back and abdominal muscles are trained and functionally able to work, the more they support and protect the spine including bones, ligaments and tendons from overload and wear and tear. Sports physicians and orthopaedists recommend that you strengthen your muscles in a targeted manner to prevent back pain and also train your endurance through exercise such as cycling, walking or swimming.
Most experts share the same opinion in this regard. There are two key factors for combating back problems in the long term and preventing pain: regular exercise and varied types of movement. That’s great news because it means that every person is in control of their own back health. To actively prevent pain, this simple rule of thumb applies: make your daily routine as active as possible.
If you rest, you rust
‘Everything was better in the past’ – if this assertion relates to a person’s physical condition in an earlier life phase, it is undoubtedly true. As children, we still have a natural urge to move, which ensures that our muscles and skeletons develop to be strong and stable. Our muscles and bones grow, so to speak, ‘with movement’, through the interplay of load and relief or tension and relaxation. However, our bodies begin to break down again in our early twenties. This applies to most organs and body functions. For example, the performance of the heart and kidneys as well as your sense of smell and eyesight slowly begin to deteriorate.
However, whether you’re young or old, bodies need exercise to prevent sickness. This means that the older we get, the more we would actually have to do for our bodies to maintain our fitness. Usually, however, the opposite occurs. Over the years, we become more and more comfortable. Whether it’s a lift, escalator or a trip by car – we rely on technology to move around rather than our own muscle power.
Owing to the lack of load-bearing, we suffer muscle loss and our organs, bones and joints also become weaker and begin to ‘rust’. This is why a lack of exercise can also lead to cardiovascular diseases. If you no longer regularly put adequate stress on the heart, the heart muscle loses its performance capacity. This increases the risk of suffering a heart attack during everyday stresses such as climbing stairs. Dangerously high blood pressure, digestive problems, type 2 diabetes, bone loss and osteoarthritis can also result from inactivity.
If you keep moving, on the other hand, you can keep your body flexible and strong, delay age-related degradation processes, prevent diseases, keep your brain fit through better blood circulation and recover from injuries more quickly. Your years of life are then no more than a number: when it comes to stamina, sporty and fit 60-year-olds often run circles around 30-year-old couch potatoes who don’t exercise.
The strongest muscle is in the head
Almost everyone knows that exercise and movement strengthen the entire body, make it flexible, boost the metabolism, help reduce excess weight and improve pain. Nevertheless, many people still take pills as the first port of call when they feel pain instead of putting on their trainers and moving their feet. The reasons for this vary – from mere comfort to the fear that movement and exercise could make the symptoms even worse. The latter is particularly true of those who regularly struggle with back pain and who have not moved or exercised properly in years for fear of developing new problems or experiencing increased pain.
Every little change makes a big difference
Especially when those affected are suffering from pain, physical activity can seem particularly challenging. It is therefore important to approach the goal in small steps. A great first start is to integrate simple physical activities into your daily routine. You have to flip the famed switch in your head.
Your aim is to turn new thoughts into new actions and new actions into new habits – or to put it another way, to ‘reprogramme your own hard drive’. For example, you could use the stairs instead of the lift or escalator. Instead of getting into your car at every opportunity, it’s better to cover shorter distances on foot and longer distances by bike. Small changes in your daily routine, such as using your lunch break for a short walk, can also have a big impact on your back health and general well-being.
Once you’ve overcome the first hurdle and integrated more movement into everyday life, your physical well-being increases over time and with it, the chance that movement generates the desire and motivation to exercise regularly – and with that you’ll have achieved a great deal for the health of your back.
Less stress is good for your back
In addition to a lack of exercise, nervous tension is another important cause of back pain. This is because stress and psychological pressure lead to increased muscle activation, which over time leads to tension and, as a result, to physical pain. If you frequently suffer from back pain, you should therefore first examine your everyday life and ask yourself: Which factors could be responsible for racing thoughts, mental stress and sleepless nights? What can be done about it and how can the problems be dealt with?
There are often factors at play such as stress at work, disputes with a partner, worries about children, debts or other financial bottlenecks. In a nutshell, if your everyday life is characterised by constant worry, a solution must be found. Otherwise, it won’t just be your mind that’s out of balance, your body will also respond with painful tension. Back muscles become overloaded. The German Association of Psychologists (BDP) estimates that psychological factors are the cause in 85% of back pain cases.
This means that focusing only on the physical aspects of combating back pain is not enough. Instead, a holistic approach is required which takes into account strengthening the muscles and the importance of the fascia, as well as focusing on the psychological condition of the person affected and strategies for coping with stress. All these must be included in the treatment plan. Only then can sustainable success be achieved.