Whether you’re working from home, staffing the front lines or just getting used to being back at work in person, most people will agree that this has been another exhausting year. 

Nearly 50% of Canadians say they’re feeling worn down and lacking energy to face this phase of the pandemic, let alone keep up with daily activities like work, parenting, studying and more.  

At the same time, Statistics Canada notes that Canadians are spending less time being active, and more time sitting during the COVID-19 pandemic than they did previously. 

World Spine Day is October 16, and this year it’s highlighting ways people can adopt good spine hygiene habits to improve their mobility and take better care of their health.   

GoodLife Fitness personal trainer and fascial stretch therapist Simon Paige says bad posture can lead to neck and back issues, which can contribute to other health issues like headaches, breathing problems, shoulder pain and impingement, knee, hip and foot pain and general lack of energy. Four out of five adults will experience at least one episode of back pain at some time in their lives. 

While many people tend to stop moving and take it easy when they experience back pain, Paige says it’s critical to keep moving within your comfort zone. He suggests 3 key workout elements to minimize common back issues and build mobility in your spine (but first check with a medical professional).   

Stretching and flexibility

Focus on stretches and mobility for your neck and shoulders (chin to chest, ear to shoulder) and your lower back (kneeling lunge, knee to chest stretch). Yoga positions like child’s pose, cat-cow, downward dog and sphinx pose are great to stretch the spine and loosen muscles that support it. Try to build in a few stretches each day to keep your hips and back mobile and flexible. 

Strength training

While there can be many causes of back pain, a weak core and poor posture from sitting all day (and consequently shortening the hip muscles that then pull on the lower back) are two really common contributing factors to lower back aches and discomfort. 

Building strength and stability in your core and abdominal area, as well as your glutes and shoulders, can help support your back and stabilize your posture. Paige recommends starting with body weight moves like lunges and squats for your glutes and core, as well as the bird-dog exercise, which builds strength between the shoulder blades and in the lower back. Paige says it’s important to work with a fitness professional to learn proper form before you do any strength training exercises that involve weights, especially when it comes to your back.  

Keep moving

Your body is designed to move and your spine is right at the centre of every movement. Your instinct may tell you to lie down, but the reality is it’s good to keep moving (as your pain allows). Walking and swimming are both great exercises for spinal health. Pay attention to how your body moves and to maintaining good posture when you walk, your gait should be natural and relaxed, feet shoulder width apart, shoulders back, head upright and core muscles activated. 

Paige says taking care of your spine should be just like brushing your teeth. It’s something you should think about every day. Keep moving and remember to do some basic stretching exercises, and pay attention to your posture to keep your spine feeling strong over the long term.