Exercises that promote spinal flexibility, like today’s challenge, are very beneficial to overall back health. But did you know that it’s been scientifically proven that spinal flexibility has a significant impact on balance control?

Since falls are the main cause of fractures, including the dreaded hip fractures, this exercise is a valuable aid to keep you fracture-free.

So today we’ll take a look at the study on spinal flexibility and at all the reasons why the Spinal Flexibility Enhancer is such an important exercise.

Why:

We often tend to overlook the importance of spine mobility. It’s easy to think of the spine as a static column that holds us straight up, and the stiffer it is, the more stable it must be.

But in reality, the spine is both flexible and stabilizing, and the more flexible it is, the greater its range of motion and stability.

Today’s exercise targets mainly the thoracic vertebrae, which run from the base of the neck to the top of the lower back. This often-neglected area is a key player in the prevention of kyphosis (Dowager’s Hump), the promotion of proper posture, balance, and overall back strength.

After all, if your thoracic vertebrae are stiff and underused, then the neck, shoulders, and lower back will compensate, inducing pain, increasing susceptibility to injury, and affecting posture.

Why Thoracic Flexibility And Range Of Motion Matter

The thoracic vertebrae are designed to rotate, flex, and extend. When they are toned and made flexible through targeted exercises like the Spinal Flexibility Enhancer, the lower back can be relieved from compensation through excessive twisting and bending.

This is why some people sometimes “throw their lower back out” when twisting and turning – their thoracic vertebrae are lacking mobility, so their lumbar vertebrae try to take up the slack by moving than they are designed to.

Restoring thoracic mobility also increases range of motion, freeing up the scapulae and rotator cuff from the extra work of compensation, and making these areas far less vulnerable to injury. The shoulders will roll back, reducing the hunchback appearance of kyphosis and opening up greater lung capacity.

Spinal Flexibility Begins With The Muscles

The Spinal Flexibility Enhancer works the following muscles and muscle groups.

  • The Rectus abdominus is right in the front of your abdomen. This is the muscle group referred to as the “abs.” Interestingly, the rectus abdominus is in two halves, separated by a line of connective tissue called the linea alba. Bending to the side, as in today’s exercise, works one side at a time.
  • The Erector spinae consist of eight muscles that run down both side of your spine for the entire length. In lateral flexion (bending to the side), one side of the erector spinae is worked while the other side relaxes.
  • The Obliques will be familiar to Savers who did last weekend’s exercise. When it comes to side-bending, the obliques are the muscles you think of first, because they run along your sides. There are actually three obliques, internal, external, and transverse, and all are involved in the rotation of your spine.
  • The Quadratus lumborum is a fairly small muscle, but it’s important. It runs from the iliac crest of the pelvis to the lower ribs and the vertebrae of the lower back (lumbar vertebrae). These are key stabilization muscles for your lumbar spine, and like the other muscle groups, side bends work one Quadratus lymborum muscle at a time.

How:

You don’t need any equipment to perform the basic version of this exercise, but you might want to have a chair or wall nearby to steady yourself if necessary.

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Imagine pulling your belly button in toward your spine. This will tighten up your abs.
  3. Place one hand behind your head, leaving one arm down by your side. For the sake of clarity, we’ll say to place your left hand behind your head and let your right arm hang down.
  4. Bend sideways at your waist to the right, lowering your right hand downward (you can keep your hand lightly on your leg if you like).
  5. Come back up to the starting position.
  6. Repeat 10-15 times, or as many times as you feel comfortable. Then switch sides for another set of 10 or 15.

Advanced Version:

For a more intense workout, hold a weight in your downward hand while performing the exercise.

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Study Proves That Spinal Flexibility Is Vitally Important For Balance

Scientists studied the spinal flexibility of 251 adult participants. After controlling for age, gender, mood, confidence level, and many other variables, the researchers concluded that:


“Results clearly implicate spinal flexibility as a contributor to functional reach, a measure of functional limitation and an established measure of balance control.”1

In other words, spinal flexibility is essential for balance! And balance, in turn, is crucial for avoiding falls.

As mentioned earlier, falls are the major cause of fractures, especially in the elderly, which is why the Densercise™ Epidensity Training System includes plenty of balance-oriented moves that also promote flexibility.

After you try the Spinal Flexibility Enhancer, let us know how it goes by leaving a comment below.

Enjoy the weekend!

References

1 Schenkman, M., Morey, M., and Kuchinhatta, M. “Spinal flexibility and balance control among community-dwelling adults with and without Parkinson’s disease.” J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med. August 2000. 55(8): M441-5. Web. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10952366

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23 comments. Leave Yours Now →
  1. Julie June 16, 2015, 10:35 am

    I cannot “pin” these exercises to Pinterest. Keep getting error message that it is not the right URL format. Any ideas for a solution? Thanks

  2. Judith June 11, 2015, 1:50 am

    Is a glass of red wine at night bad for the bones if u have osteoporosis.

  3. christine May 31, 2015, 9:55 am

    Please could you advise me me as to trying this exercise as I have 2 fractured vertibrae and my spine has curved to the side a little.Thank you.

    • Customer Support June 1, 2015, 8:25 am

      Hi Christine,
      The Weekend Challenges are basic exercise information intended for the general public, so your best bet is to talk to your doctor or physical therapist about what exercises are appropriate for your unique situation. 🙂 It’s important to proceed with caution, especially where fractures are concerned.

      • Barbara Keimer June 4, 2015, 5:21 pm

        I take truOsteo for my bones my question to you when is the best time to take it?

  4. Elaine Gerber May 23, 2015, 1:09 pm

    Weekend Challenge-Spinal Flexibility Enhancer
    I have been told by different physiotherapists, both at conferences for bone density and in private consultations, not to do exercises that bend the spine.
    These are not groups of people that have other health issues at these conferences.
    please explain this exercise and others like.
    I am 71, very active, exercise and keep my muscles strong.
    Thank you very much. I value your opinion.

    Elaine Gerber

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA May 23, 2015, 2:50 pm

      Good question, Elaine. The physiotherapists are referring to bending forward, not bending sideways. In fact, this exercise is recommended for osteoporotic patients.

      • Sue May 24, 2015, 1:10 am

        We do forward bends in my 3 weekly yoga classes. Am I doing harm to my spine? I have osteopenia.

  5. Mary May 23, 2015, 12:51 pm

    I tried the spinal flexibility exercise and feel that it actually will improve spinal flexibility, and I will do this exercise on a daily basis.

  6. Carrie May 23, 2015, 11:14 am

    A few months ago, I developed a compression fracture in the thoracic area – would this side-bending still be okay to do? I’m quite eager to strengthen this area to avoid any further fractures!

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA May 23, 2015, 2:52 pm

      While side-bending is a very safe move, since you already have a compression fracture, I recommend you first check with your health practitioner.

      • Gopal Rao May 24, 2015, 2:13 pm

        Dear Vivian,
        Same problem, but I find the health practitioner, doc in other words, overly conservative. Most will say dont do this and that, and generally avoid taking resposibility for advice ow far one can go. And they aren’t wrong, are they? how can they know. Despite all the info from xrays, CT and MRIs, they can only say that in so-and-so motion lies the possibility of disruption. A ages like mine, 75, I hv come to the firm conclusion that docs can only guide and inform, and it’s up to us to decide how far we can go.

  7. Jean Ma May 23, 2015, 10:39 am

    Would a disintegrted disc at L5 preclude doing this exercise or would it help.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA May 23, 2015, 2:53 pm

      Increasing spinal flexibility is always good, but before you practice this exercise, check with your doctor.

  8. Mery May 23, 2015, 6:50 am

    Dear L.D it is NEVER too late, take that off your mind Vivian exercises work. at the beginning you won’t see results until after 6-7 months, people tend to quit within that period of time, once this time pass everything start to change rapidly, do not get discourage, this exercises work, i am 72 doing this for 14 months, and i have improve greatly is never too late and i wanted to quit at about six months…for i did not see no results..

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA May 23, 2015, 9:25 am

      I agree, Mery!

      • L.D. May 23, 2015, 11:02 am

        Oh heavens no!!! Not giving up on healing or self. I said it was too late to become a gymnast or dancer….Perhaps the sequence of wording was misinterpreted? I do not ever give up….I should be dead and I’m not… Thanks for the kind words and encouragement…. Never hurts to try to help others!!!!!

  9. Laura May 23, 2015, 6:34 am

    Is drinking kombucha good for the body, because it’s fermented, or bad for the bones, because of its phosphorescence?

  10. L.D. May 23, 2015, 6:03 am

    Hello All, This one looks very interesting and I’m going to do the best I can to do it. With a hernia and ostomy it will be a challenge but, as usual I’ll improvise and get as close to the recommended positions as possible. I sure do wish I had become a gymnast or dancer to keep the flexibility throughout life. At 68 its a bit late and with kyphosis and FHP, slow and careful will be the mantra… Good luck to all of you who came here early enough to avoid what many of us are going through… Please do share what you learn here, Pay it Forward…God Bless

  11. Jill May 23, 2015, 4:37 am

    I cannot obtain a bone density scan because I’m over 65. Is this the general experience or I’m lucky that I have an Ageist local hospital?

  12. Jill May 23, 2015, 4:34 am

    What can a person do if he/she cannot get up from the floor once down?

    • Claudia May 23, 2015, 10:04 am

      Jill, I can’t get up once I am down. I crawl to the couch and pull myself up.that is all I can do. Putting a chair within reach is better,but sometimes I forget.that is how I do stretching to get my body ready for the day.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA May 23, 2015, 9:24 am

      Hi Jill,
      This is certainly a concern for many of us as we age! Here is a Weekend Challenge that addresses this very topic:

      https://saveourbones.com/weekend-challenge-the-get-up-from-the-floor-trio/

      I hope you will find the exercises useful. 🙂

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