Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Kicking Morning Rituals

It’s time to kick that morning ritual yoga or stretching routine! Spinal flexion (bending) exercises first thing in the morning puts a lot of stress on the discs in your back.

Here’s why:

You’re taller when you wake up in the morning than when you go to bed at night.
The discs in your back are hydrophilic. In other words, they suck up water while you sleep, thus making you taller.

These discs are like a balloon full of water first thing in the morning. And, if you do a lot of bending (toe touches, situps, etc..), there's a lot of stress on those discs. In fact, the stresses are three times higher than when you perform the same exercise two or three hours later.

"Researchers have documented the increased annulus stresses after a bout of bed rest," says Professor Stuart McGill, an expert in spine function and injury prevention and rehabilitation at the University of Waterloo in Canada.
"Yet many athletes and laypeople alike get up in the morning and perform spine stretches, sit-ups, and so on. This is the most dangerous time of day to undertake such activities."

Some evidence for this comes from research published in the journal Spine [1]. The study shows that controlling lumbar flexion in the morning is an effective way to reduce back pain.

A group of 85 subjects with persistent or recurring low back pain was assigned to one of two groups.

One group was told to restrict the amount of bending they did in the early morning. The control group received a "fake" treatment consisting of six exercises shown to be ineffective in reducing low back pain.

After six months, back pain was reduced in the group told to restrict bending activities in the early morning.

A follow-up study shows that participants who continued to restrict bending activities in the early morning enjoyed a further reduction in back pain.

The bottom line is that doing your ab, yoga, pilates and spinal stretching workouts is one of the worst things you can do for your back first thing in the morning. You should also wait a couple hours to do your heavy squats and deadlifts.