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Your 2018 Weight Loss Guide Step 8: Beating Back Pain

Timothy Boyer Ph.D.'s picture
Avoid back pain with planks

Nothing puts the brakes on your weight loss plans quicker than coming down with what is sometimes referred to as the “common cold of injuries”—back pain. Here is some key advice on beating back pain to keep you on your feet and burning those calories.


In the 4th step of “Your 2018 Weight Loss Guide,” we learned that walking for exercise is the easiest and least expensive type of exercise available that actually works toward weight loss and is supported by both popular fitness advice and scientific studies. We also learned to start slow and follow a gradual progression as you increase both distance and speed. But what if your body is telling you that it wants more? That it wants to go faster and further? Perhaps jogging or running? That’s great! But before you do, a new study recommends that preparing your body by strengthening your core can help protect you against a common runners’ complaint—chronic back pain.

In a news release from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, researchers have looked into the causes of chronic back pain in runners and found that runners whose core muscles aren’t nearly as strong as they should be were the ones most likely to suffer from back pain. The reason for this is that when the core is weak, it forces other muscles to compensate which in turn increases the load on the spine leading to pain.

“We measured the dimensions of runners’ bodies and how they moved to create a computer model that’s specific to that person. That allows us to examine how every bone moves and how much pressure is put on each joint,” said Ajit Chaudhari, associate professor of physical therapy and biomedical engineering at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, who led the study.

“We can then use that simulation to virtually ‘turn off’ certain muscles and observe how the rest of the body compensates…when your deep core is weak, your body is able to compensate in a way that allows you to essentially run the same way. But that increases the load on your spine in a way that may lead to low back pain.”

60 Second Back Pain Fixes

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According to the news release, researchers do not advice turning to traditional ab exercises such as sit-ups or back extensions for strengthening the core; rather, exercises such as planks that focus on stabilizing the core, especially on unstable surfaces, is what is key to building a strong core for a stronger, back pain-free body.

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“Static exercises that force you to fire your core and hold your body in place are what’s really going to make you a better runner,” says Chaudhari.

Here’s a YouTube video on Planks for Beginners

And finally…

Not only will a stronger core improve your running by helping to prevent back pain, but it will also result in an improved posture, better balance, and make breathing easier. Better yet, even if you decide not to take up jogging or running, improving your core will only add to one of the benefits of losing weight—a flatter looking tummy.


The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center news release “Study Uncovers Potential Key to Preventing Back Pain in Runners"

Journal of Biomechanics Nov. 2017 “Biomechanical consequences of running with deep core muscle weakness”; Margaret E. Raabe, Ajit M.W. Chaudhari.

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