Best Sports for People With Back Pain

By Alejandra Leyva – May 21, 2023

Sports are a double-edged sword; while they promote overall well-being, athletes often find themselves suffering from short- and long-term injuries because of them. 

According to a study, athletes commonly suffer from lower back pain like degenerative disc disease and spondylolysis. Suffering from a sports-related injury is so common that health insurance is already a non-negotiable requirement for many athletes.

Whether you’re an athlete or just a person trying to stay fit recreationally, back pain can leave you with limited options… but not zero! Here are some physical activities you can get into without breaking the bank — and back.


Woman swimming.

If you’re looking for a sport that takes the pressure off your back (literally!), then you’ve got to try swimming. 

Sure, you use all the parts of your body when swimming, but the wonder of this sport lies in the water. The buoyancy helps support the body, taking off so much of the load from your back. This is why even when you use your entire body, the water helps takes the pressure off your spine, allowing you to perform the sport while strengthening your arms, legs and core muscles. 

Plus, there are so many things you can do to capitalize on your time in the water, from simple aerobic exercises to advanced routines.


Remember that any high-impact activity that puts pressure on the joints is terrible for back pain and causes overuse injuries. This includes running and jogging. However, if you want to go the extra mile for your sport, why not consider cycling?

Cycling is a low-impact, less jarring activity than running or jogging, as long as you maintain the proper posture and get the right bike. Here are some other tips to go cycling without stressing your back:

  • Stretching before cycling
  • Check if you’re comfortable with the bike parts, especially the saddle
  • Have a professional bike fit done

Low-Impact Aerobics

Woman using elliptical.

Not all aerobic exercises are for people with back pain, and “low-impact” is the most important keyword in this discussion. This is because low-impact aerobics helps keep the spine mobile despite back pains. After all, staying static makes back pain even worse.

Examples of low-impact aerobics you can do are elliptical trainers or step machines, stationary cycling and water aerobics. Most back pains are also a result of bad posture, so you can do some easy stretches to help improve posture, like shoulder blade squeezes and upper body stretches.

Doing 20 to 30 minutes of low-impact aerobic exercises 3 to 5 times a week is recommended to help relieve back pain.


Person doing yoga.

There are levels to yoga you can perform without stressing your back, and contrary to belief, yoga is a safe activity for back pain.

This is because yoga promotes flexibility and core mobility without putting too much pressure on your joints and eventually helps correct your posture — a primary contributor to back pains.

Some yoga exercises you can do that are back pain-friendly include: 

  • Cat/Cow
  • Downward-facing dog
  • Sphinx pose
  • Child’s pose
  • Knees to chest with slow rock
  • Plank
  • Crescent lunge
  • Thread the needle


Person walking.

A study published in the National Library of Medicine has proven how walking or brisk walking can help alleviate back pain when done regularly. This is because walking is a low-impact activity that helps keep the body — especially the back — mobile and flexible to strengthen the core and muscles, which eventually helps reduce lower back pain.

Another study has shown that office workers are the most susceptible to lower back pain, the most common work-related injury among workers under 45 years old. The solution? Take some time during lunch or snack break to take a 20- to 30-minute walk in the building or outside. No time for a walk? Why not consider walking business meetings?

The critical point to remember when getting into any physical activity with back pain is to look for less pressure and low impact. Try to engage in activities you can do consistently but are manageable for the body. After all, anybody of any age can develop back pain, and the strategies for foundational wellness lie in our dedication to making our lifestyle much better than it currently is. 

About the Author

Alejandra Leyva is a digital nomad who practices slow living. She is willing to learn and spread her knowledge about taking time in our rushing world.


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