7 Best Calorie-Burning Exercises That Won't Hurt Your Back, Fitness Pros Say
Reach your goal weight without triggering an injury.
Right now in America, 16 million adults are suffering from chronic back pain—and far more experience sporadic bouts of back discomfort. If you're one of these people, you know just how much it can restrict both your exercise regimen and even your everyday movement. However, careful, low-impact exercises can help you regain your range of motion, build back strength, and improve your condition over time—not to mention burn calories and maintain a healthy weight. Wondering which exercises are best for your back? These are the seven calorie-burning workouts to try.
Yoga may not be the quickest way to burn calories, but it's incredibly beneficial for strengthening and toning the body in a back-friendly manner, says Andrew White, CPT, a certified personal trainer and the founder of Garage Gym Pro.
"Certain yoga styles, like Vinyasa or power yoga, can be more physically demanding and aid in weight loss. Yoga also improves flexibility, balance, and core strength, which are crucial for back health," he notes.
Sean Klein, CPT, a certified personal trainer and the founder of The Programme App, suggests Buti yoga for a calorie-burning workout: "This form of low-impact exercise combines cardio, strength training, and flexibility movements for a full-body workout that not only burns calories but also builds muscle and improves overall fitness."
Stand-up paddle boarding
If you happen to live near water, Klein says stand-up paddle boarding is a great way to lose weight and have fun doing it: "This water sport provides a great full-body workout, as you use your arms, legs, and core to balance and paddle through the water."
He adds that the buoyancy of the water takes the pressure off your joints and spine, making it a safe and effective workout for those with back pain or injuries.
Stability ball exercises
Stability ball exercises are another excellent tool for burning fat and toning your core without hurting your back.
"The unstable surface of the ball engages your core and stabilizer muscles, helping to improve balance and coordination while also providing a challenging full-body workout," Klein tells Best Life.
Swimming can help you burn 180 to 250 calories per half hour, depending on your weight—making it one of the most efficient forms of exercise when you're hoping to shed pounds. It's also as low-impact as it gets on your back and other muscles, meaning you shouldn't have to worry about strain or injury while doing it.
"The cool aquatic environment eases compressive load on discs while challenging cardiorespiratory fitness as you fluidly propel through the water. Recruiting core and upper body musculature in new ways also sculpts beautifully," says Adnaan Ayoub, a clinical exercise physiologist, personal trainer, and specialist in cancer exercise rehabilitation at Max Health Living.
Recumbent bike cycling
Cycling, whether outdoors or on a stationary bike, is another ideal low-impact exercise for calorie burning.
"It's gentle on the back since the spine is supported during the activity. Cycling also strengthens the legs and improves cardiovascular health, making it a good choice for overall weight loss," says White.
If you are exercising with a previous back injury, Ayoub recommends trying a recumbent bike rather than a standard upright bicycle.
"The laidback recline better supports the natural S-shaped spine curvature, allowing tension release across the lower back. Crank up resistance levels, and you'll break an awesome sweat in no time," he says.
If running on pavement leads to a back pain flareup, experts suggest switching to an elliptical training machine.
"Ellipticals provide a similar gliding movement without any impact, making them ideal for those with sensitivities," says Ayoub. "Use arm levers alongside powering legs to truly maximize a full-body challenge."
Finally, the experts all agree that walking is another powerful way to lose weight if you're concerned about back injury.
"Walking is a simple and accessible form of exercise that's easy on the back. It's a great way to burn calories, especially when brisk walking or incorporating varied terrain," says White. "Walking strengthens the lower body and helps improve cardiovascular fitness without the jarring impact of running."
For an added challenge and added benefits, add a weighted rucking pack to help build muscle strength in the back and core over time.
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