When you move your body against gravity, you are doing weight-bearing exercises. The more of your body weight you support while exercising, the greater the weight-bearing benefits. Exercises in which your body is upright -- such as walking, dancing and playing tennis -- bear the most weight and will strengthen and support the muscles and bones in your lower spine. Some things to consider when choosing weight-bearing exercises for your lower spine include improving your hip range of motion, strengthening your core muscles, strengthening your lumbar vertebrae and evaluating your posture and gait.
Improve Range of Motion in Hips
Your lower spine is designed more for stability than movement. To provide the best stability, the muscles around your hips and core must be strong and flexible. Unlike the joints in your lower spine, your hips are designed for movement, so exercises that improve hip range of motion will prevent unnecessary movement and strain in your lower spine. Some of the best exercises for doing this include forward lunges, side lunges, squats, stepping, and any exercise where you balance on one leg such as inverted flyers. These exercises are easily modified by changing the number of repetitions and increasing or decreasing your pace. You can also increase the effects of weight-bearing exercises by adding impact or extra weight. Just make sure you can perform the exercise correctly, with no pain before you increase the intensity.
Strengthen Core Muscles
At least 29 different muscles make up your core. A strong core enables free movement of your torso and protection and support for your lower spine. Front and side planks, bridges, bird-dogs, supermans, inverted flyers, stability ball knee tucks and squats provide various levels of weight-bearing exercises that strengthen your core, leading to better posture and improved function of your lower spine.
Strengthen Lumbar Vertebrae
The vertebrae in the lumbar section of your spine bear most of your body's weight so it's important to keep them strong. When bones are challenged by weight-bearing exercises or impact, they increase in strength. However, bone only continues to get stronger if it is continually challenged with new or greater loads, so the exercises must be different from and greater than your normal daily activities. Exercises like lunging, climbing stairs and single jumps followed by a pause provide safe, effective loading for your lumbar vertebrae.
Evaluate Posture and Gait
Your posture and gait significantly affect your lower spine. If you are experiencing pain or weakness in this area, a physical therapist or personal trainer can identify improper habits and muscle imbalances, then recommend exercises that will lengthen tight muscles and strengthen weak ones. Sometimes the cause is as simple as the shoes you wear. Certain shoes such as high heels, flip flops or stiff-soled shoes can change your gait and cause lower back pain.