Aerobic exercise is an important part of any exercise program, as it helps improve cardiovascular health and better distribute essential nutrients throughout the body. Aerobic exercise is generally considered most beneficial when done for a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes about 5 times per week.1
Low-Impact Aerobic Exercises for SI Joint Pain
Some forms of aerobic exercise, such as running or jogging, can jostle the sacroiliac joint and exacerbate pain. For this reason, low-impact aerobics that are easier on the low back and pelvis may be recommended, such as:
- Exercise walking. Faster-paced exercise walking is a means of gently working the muscles and raising the heart rate. Exercise walking is gentler on the sacroiliac joint than running or jogging, and has the added benefit of being easy to fit in to a regular schedule. For instance, exercise walking can be done on a lunch break, around the neighborhood, or indoors at a mall or on a treadmill.
- Running on an elliptical. An elliptical running machine provides an aerobic exercise similar to running or jogging, but without the pressure of the foot hitting the ground, reducing pressure placed on the sacroiliac joint. Most machines include a range of resistance levels to help strengthen muscles in the lower body as well as handles that help work out the arms and upper body.
- Stationary biking. Like an elliptical running machine, a stationary bike allows for aerobic exercise without the jolts of biking on uneven ground that can irritate the SI joint.
- Swimming or water aerobics. Exercising in water provides an effective low-impact aerobic workout that does not put excess pressure on the SI joint due to the natural buoyancy of the water. Additionally, the water’s resistance provides a gentle workout for the muscles. Specific water aerobics exercises, water walking, or swim strokes may be recommended as part of a physical therapy program.
Some trial and error may be needed to find an aerobic exercise that is enjoyable and does not worsen SI joint pain. One of the most important factors for success with an exercise program is maintaining regular exercise, so it is important to find a method of aerobic exercise that one is likely to continue.
It is generally a good idea to consult with a doctor familiar with the patient’s specific condition before starting a new exercise program, in order to ensure the exercise will not further irritate the SI joint. For instance, pain caused by too little motion at the SI joint (fixation) will benefit from some exercises differently than pain caused by too much motion.