While it may seem reasonable to suggest that excess weight can place undue stress on the body, many are unaware of just how your body weight can affect your spine. Being overweight or obese can create a variety of health problems, including damage to your spine, which is your body’s main support system. This month, we wanted to take time to educate you on the ways that your body weight can affect your spinal health and what you can do to make sure your spine stays healthy.
We understand that this virus has impacted our day-to-day living including our eating patterns and exercise habits which are two big contributors to weight gain. For this reason, we’ve also included some tips to help curb snacking habits and improve your exercise routine while following COVID-19 guidelines for staying safe and healthy.
Impact of Weight on Your Spine
The spine houses and protects the body’s central nervous system while offering structural support for your muscles and the weight of your entire body ensuring proper function, motion, and shock absorption. Excess weight can put extra stress on the spine decreasing the function and motion of the spine, and may even alter the curvature to support the added stress and weight on your body. This can comprise your spine’s ability to protect and facilitate the general functions of your body while increasing the risk of injury.
Patients who are overweight may experience several health conditions as excess weight can lead to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, sciatica, back pain, herniated discs, pinched nerves, and more. Increased weight can also lead to fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath while exercising, which may further complications due to a lack of exercise.
Overall weight loss is important as each pound adds strain to muscles and ligaments within the body. Even small amounts of weight loss can help improve a patient’s overall health and quality of life. As chiropractors we can help you by relieving some stress, correcting the range of motion, and restoring function to the nervous system with spinal adjustments. We can also offer lifestyle recommendations to your diet and exercise routines to help your spine function at its best.
Contributions to Weight Gain
There is a well-documented relationship between stress and weight gain, which can further be accentuated by a decrease in daily exercise. With stay-at-home orders in place for many, stress can build up leading to an increase of carb intake, snacking, stress eating, and lack of exercise which all contribute to weight gain.
It is important to consult with your doctor before starting any weight loss program to ensure that the program is right and safe for you.
Keep a Balanced Diet
Stop Boredom Snacking
Stress eating is often accompanied by boredom eating. When you get the urge to snack, ask yourself, “am I hungry or am I eating because I’m bored?” If you can admit that you are snacking out of boredom, then do something else. Go for a walk, call a friend, journal, but stop boredom in its tracks so that you don’t end up eating empty calories.
Prepare and Portion
If you know you are going to snack, make a game plan ahead of time. Give yourself designated snack times and practice portion control by putting your snacks in smaller bowls or snack-sized bags. Avoid eating from the container or while doing other activities so that you can enjoy your snack to the fullest and avoid overeating.
Variety and Activity
While it is okay to indulge in a treat of chips, chocolate, or cookies every now and then, be sure to prepare some healthy options as well. Carrot sticks, cheese, fresh fruit, and celery sticks with peanut butter are some great options for simple, healthy snacks. If you can purchase fresh produce, it’s always a healthier option compared to processed foods. Making cooking and food preparation a family activity is a great way to keep your family healthy, strengthen bonds, and have fun.
If you can get out of the house, do so! Just being outdoors and breathing fresh air can do a lot to relax your body and reduce your stress levels. If you can, go for a walk or bicycle ride around the neighborhood and remember to practice social distancing rules. Remember to wash your hands before you leave your house, at your destination, and once you return home.
Regular activity benefits not only the body, but also the mind. It can reduce high blood pressure, manage weight, relieve muscle tension or strain, reduce the risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and various health conditions while improving bone and muscle strength. Your mental health is also improved with regular activity as it has been known to lower risk for depression and cognitive decline while reducing stress.
Setting a specific time aside for exercise can help you maintain your schedule while also giving your body that much needed boost of energy. Whether you want to allot time to a daily walk, bike ride, online class, or follow a popular workout video, jot it down in your schedule and stick to it.
Working out from home can be preferable for many people, so you don’t need to worry if you are unable to go out. If you have some gym equipment already such as a stationary bike, dumbbells, resistance bands, or a treadmill you won’t have a hard time getting ready.
If you don’t have any equipment, you can still keep active with many of the fun and free workout videos available online. You can even google workout routines associated with movies or TV shows, so you can still binge your favorite series but also get a good workout in. Circuit training with pushups, squats, lunges, jumping jacks, crunches, and planks are some exercises you can include to stay fit while at home. Yoga or mat Pilates are also great ways to be active if you are looking for something more gentle and low impact.
If you aren’t regularly active, remember to start slow with low-intensity activities. Begin with only 5-10 minutes a day of daily activity that gets your heart racing. Listen to your body but understand that some pain and discomfort are expected at the beginning of a new routine. Slowly build up to 30 minutes or more of physical activity over the next few weeks.
For more information on the relationship between your weight and spine, healthy tips for COVID-19 diet and exercise, or to schedule an appointment, contact Dr. Mark F. Herman today.