Breathe This Way to Protect Your Back

By Brittany Risher |

Engaging your core as you inhale and exhale protects your spine and keeps you safe.

You think about proper form while exercising, but what about during everyday movements? For too many people, bending over to pick something up as small as a pen is enough to hurt your back or shoulders. That’s where “supported movement” comes in.

Supported movement combines breath and consciousness to minimize your risk of injury. Breathing while keeping your lower abdominals slightly engaged gives your body more support. Being conscious of what you’re doing makes you more aware of your posture as you move. Combine these two actions, and you’ll be able to move effectively, minimize injury risk, and maintain your mobility longer.

“Our breath is three-dimensional,” explains Terecita “Ti” Blair, the 2017 SilverSneakers Instructor of the Year. “We have movement happening from front to back, side to side, and top to bottom. Moving consciously with the breath—for example, breathing in and out of your nose while lifting heavy objects—helps create a cylinder of support around the spine.”

Using this built-in support system requires only awareness. You should try to always move this way, Blair says, but especially when lifting, pushing, or crouching. Here’s how.

Step #1: Focus on Your Breath

Seal your lips, and begin breathing in and out through your nose. This helps slow the breath down and also create a valve of postural support within your core.

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Step #2: Find Your Core

On an exhale, engage your core, focusing on the muscles in your lower belly. It’s almost as if you’re bracing to receive a punch in the gut. With your core engaged, continue breathing as normal, and perform your task. Do the “work” of your task—such as lifting an object or pushing something away—on an exhale.

Step #3: Check Your Posture

Anytime you do this, be mindful of your posture as well. Keeping your back straight, rather than rounded, and your shoulders back and down away from your ears will further reduce the risk of injuries.

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