In this article, you will learn (i) Is aerobics good for back pain? & (ii) What is the best cardio for lower back pain?

Aerobic exercise makes an important part of any exercise program because it improves circulation & elevates the heart rate.

Generally, aerobic exercises are good for most people, even for people with spine conditions & low back pain.

Low impact aerobic exercises don’t jar your body. They can contribute to providing relief from lower back pain by reducing stiffness and increasing blood flow to the spinal components as well as feeding more nutrients to the spine.

Benefits of Aerobic Exercise For Back Pain

A regular routine of low impact aerobic exercises contributes to relieve back or neck pain by:

  • Improves blood circulation, provides oxygen and nutrients to the back muscles, thereby decreases the stiffness & risks of back pain.
  • Burns calories, so helps reduce and maintain optimal weight – which gets rid of excessive pressure & stress on your back & the spine
  • Keeps your spine mobile & functional, helping to reduce the disability caused by chronic back pain. Not exercising with chronic pain tends to exacerbate functionality & mobility problems.
  • Enhances creation of endorphins, which works as a natural painkiller
  • Elevates your mood, so helps ease symptoms of depression. Back pain and depression are said to be closely associated.
  • Diminishes the chances of occurrence and/or severity of future pain flare-ups

[Read: Cardio For Exercises Seniors]

How Often Should You Do Aerobic Exercises?

General recommendation for people with low back pain is to do aerobic workout for at least twenty to thirty minutes between three and five times a week to improve circulation effectively. In case of severe pain, it can be helpful to begin with shorter interval workouts, like five to ten of walking, and then gradually progress to a more extensive routine.

[Read: Aerobic Exercises For Seniors]

What Cardio You Can Do With Lower Back Pain?

Disclaimer: Check with your doctor before starting any exercise routine. Depending on the cause of your chronic back pain, and other health issues, some exercises might do more harm than good.

People with low back pain can do low impact aerobic exercises. Best low impact cardio exercises include:


Walking has the benefit of being gentler on your spine than jogging. It doesn’t require any specific equipment, except a good pair of shoes. Walking can be done outdoors, such as around your neighborhood or on a nature trail. You can also do it inside, such as on a treadmill or in a mall.

But you must be wondering how walking can help your back? One benefit of walking is that it improves blood circulation. Second benefit as described above is weight loss; walking helps reduce weight so take pounds of pressure off your spine & lower back. Another benefit is the strengthening of the muscles: more so if you purposely move your arms while walking. Walking can strengthen the core and lower back, which can help ease your back pain.

Elliptical Trainer Or Step Machine

Elliptical Trainer Low Impact ExerciseElliptical trainers are well known low-impact cardio machines for home gyms & health clubs. These machines mimic the movements of walking up stairs, jogging and running, so offer a lower-impact cardio workout. This type of machines typically employ footholds or pedals that are suspended above the ground and glide up & down. This ensures your feet don’t hit a hard surface during the workout. Moreover, most machines provide varying resistance settings that can be adjusted according to your fitness level.

Stationary Bicycling

Stationary Bicycling Low ImpactA stationary bicycle simulates the pedalling movements of a bicycle. Whereas outdoor cycling can be hard on your back, stationary bicycling avoids pebbles and pitfalls. So, it offers cardio benefits without the bumping impact of riding on an uneven surface.

They are available in different models. One is upright model, on which the rider leans forward. Another type is recumbent model, on which you can take a reclined position against an adjustable back support. Both are low impact on the spine.

Swimming And Water Aerobics

Water Exercises Low ImpactWhen you go into a body of water, its buoyancy helps reduce gravity (Earth’s downward pull on your body). So, the deeper you go in water, the “lighter” you become. At waist level you’ll feel only approximately 40% – 50% of the gravitational pull that you experience on land. And, in chest-deep water you can further decrease your weight-load to about 30% of your land body weight.

Thus swimming is the most obvious low-impact aerobic exercise with minimal impact on your back & spine. For people having chronic back pain, the backstroke or sidestroke may be the best swimming forms. The breaststroke can exacerbate back pain. Other water exercises that can be easy on your back and help relieve pain are aqua walking, jogging and running across a pool floor.

You can also try aqua aerobics involving cross training. That is, you can use water not only for cardio exercise, but also as your “gym” for strength training. Aqua weights and other resistance equipment are available that are especially designed for pool use.

Finding the right cardio/aerobic exercise regime will depend on your lifestyle and may involve a process of trial and error. Other options may suit you better depending on your specific condition, pain level, and personal preference.

Renu Bakshi AKA Fitness BuffhqAbout Author: Renu Bakshi, AKA Fitness Buffhq, is ISSA Certified Personal Fitness Trainer & Nutrition Health Coach. He shares his experience and knowledge about nutrition and effective workouts to get you in the best shape of your life, no matter how old you may be. The author says: “I am now healthier and fitter at 68 than I was at 28. For me age is just a number!”

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