Jay Michael Snow, MD

Exercise For Weight Loss Patients With Back Pain

Dr. Jay Michael Snow and the team at St. Louis Bariatrics specialize in weight loss, and we understand that people often have other health issues that prevent them from living healthier and more active lives1. Back pain is a common ailment among people seeking to lose weight, and our patients are not alone – eight in ten Americans experience chronic back pain at some point in their lives. We know that a balanced and healthy lifestyle incorporates regular physical activity, but how do you get exercise when you’re dealing with chronic back pain? Well, the right exercises can actually help alleviate back pain! If you are suffering from back pain or mobility issues, here are some tips and ideas for your fitness routine.*


Most people know that yoga can increase flexibility, but studies show that regular yoga practice can also improve back pain and build strength in back muscles2. There are many different types of yoga, so if you’ve tried it in the past and didn’t enjoy it, there may be another type of practice that is right for you. If you’re intimidated by the idea of perfect yoga bodies bending like pretzels, rest assured that there are yogis of all shapes and sizes and many welcoming studios that have classes for beginners. Classes that are labeled “power” or “Bikram” may be faster paced and more challenging. Look for classes geared toward beginners or “restorative” classes. A trained yoga instructor will help you use proper form and alignment, but you can also try yoga at home with free online classes from websites such as Do Yoga With Me.


Swimming can provide a full body workout that strengthens core muscles with minimal impact to joints. It can also be effective in relieving back pain3. But before you jump in the pool, keep in mind that certain swimming strokes can aggravate back pain. The breaststroke and backstroke may be better for swimmers with back pain, while the butterfly and freestyle should be avoided. If you haven’t been trained in proper form or swimming technique, you may want to consult a trainer or start with water therapy sessions.


Don’t underestimate the power of simple stretches. Stretching is not just for pre and post workout. Daily stretches when you wake up in the morning can alleviate tightness in the back. The key to getting maximum benefit from stretching is consistency. This video shows simple stretches that can be performed daily to relieve back pain. If you spend your day sitting at a desk, give yourself reminders to practice good posture and take a short break to do stretches such as these that you can do from your office chair.*

Strength Training

Back pain sometimes occurs because your back overcompensates for weak muscles. Building up the muscles in your arms, shoulders, back, abdominals, and even your legs can help protect your back. If you suffer from back pain, your instinct may be to avoid weight bearing exercise, but studies show that resistance exercises or strength training with light weights can be beneficial for people with mild to moderate chronic back pain.4,5 A physical therapist or experienced personal trainer can provide you with a personalized strength building plan and coach you on proper form. For exercises at home, try these back strengthening exercise videos.*


Sometimes the simplest solution is the best! If you’re overwhelmed by exercise options, start with walking. A medical study of U.S. military veterans with chronic back pain found that walking for exercise was effective in managing and preventing the recurrence of back pain.6 The key to walking for fitness is to stay mindful of your body. Keep your shoulders down and back, pull your abdominal muscles in, and walk at a pace that is comfortable but quicker than a stroll. Keep the focus on walking and breathing (no texting on your walk!) Read more tips for walking to relieve back pain.

Develop Your Exercise Routine*

Whichever exercise you choose, keep in mind that consistency is the key to results. You may not find immediate relief from back pain after the first time you stretch, or lose any weight after your first week of daily walking, but if you stick with it you can experience benefits such as increased flexibility, reduced pain, and elevated energy.

Contact Us

Dr. Jay Michael Snow and the team at St. Louis Bariatrics are committed to helping patients live healthier, more active lives. Contact us to schedule an appointment.

*Consult a physician before starting any exercise routine. Individual results may vary.


1 Rubin Dl. Epidemiology and Risk Factors for Spine Pain. Neurol Clin. 2007; May;25(2):353-71
2 Sawyer AM, Martinez SK, Warren GL (2012) Impact of Yoga on Low Back Pain and Function: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Yoga Phys Ther 2:120. doi:10.4172/2157-7595.1000120
3 Department of Surgery, Kyoritsu Hospital, Kitakyusyu, Japan Kurume Med J. 1999;46(2):91-6
4 Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2011 Jul;36 Suppl 1:S49-79. doi: 10.1139/h11-037.
5 J Phys Ther Sci. 2015 Mar; 27(3): 619–622. Published online 2015 Mar 31. doi:  10.1589/jpts.27.619
6 BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. 2010; 11: 205. Published online 2010 Sep 13. doi:  10.1186/1471-2474-11-205

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