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Put your back into it!

“Today” fitness expert Kathy Kaehler with a series of exercises designed to prevent and/or alleviate back pain.
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Four out of five Americans suffer back pain at some point during their lives, but you don’t have to be among them. “Today” fitness expert Kathy Kaehler has some exercises that can strengthen the muscles that support your back so that your back can support you.

THE AMERICAN ACADEMY of physical medicine and rehabilitation says that half of all Americans, more than 100 million people, feel lower back pain. And the National Center for Health Statistics claims that 4 out of every 5 people, or 80 percent of us, will experience back pain at some point during our lifetimes. Although back pain can occur for no apparent reason, approximately 85% of low back problems are muscular in nature and the underlying cause is often weak back muscles (Patriot Ledger, Quincy, MA 3/11/03). And a University of Florida Medical School study over several years showed an 80 percent success rate for patients with back pain who strength-trained their lower back muscles. Besides weak muscles, other causes of back pain are sitting in the same position for too long, poor posture, weight gain, improper lifting and, of course, injury.

There are series of exercises designed to prevent and/or alleviate back pain. Some of them are based on a program called probodx (pro-bod-ix). There is also a book by the same name available by Edythe Heus and Marv Marinovich.

The first three exercises can be done with the fitness ball which is now available at all target stores, sporting goods stores and even some supermarkets. The fourth exercise requires a cutting board and a towel and the last is a floor stretch.

With your stomach on the ball, place your hands on the floor and put your legs up with your feet touching so your legs are in a frog position. Then press your buttocks together and lift her legs slightly. This is called frog rocking.

Next is the squat and reach. Squat on the ball, push back and stretch your arms above your head. Then, with your knees resting on the ball and hands on the floor, pull the ball forward so that your knees go into your chest. Then shift the ball side to side, working the muscles in the back and abs.

For the next exercise, use a cutting board with a towel rolled up under it. Put one foot on the board and bend the other knee an inch or two, bring it back up and repeat. You should do this 3-10 times on each leg every morning when you get up and before you go to bed.

The last is a cat stretch: on the floor on all fours, pull in your abs and round your back.