My doctor told me exercise is really the way to go for a problem with back pain. I'm not really sure what kind of exercise to do. What do you recommend?

Studies generally agree that exercise therapy is a valuable treatment for chronic low back pain. A behavioral component is also advised. This part of the program looks at any fears you may have and the tendency to avoid activities because it might cause back pain.

Even studies where patients do a small amount of exercise show positive results. Physical therapists around the world are researching the specifics of type, intensity, frequency, and duration. We don't have a blue print yet. It may turn out that exercise is based on age, weight, gender, or the underlying problem. Maybe the answer lies in a combination of these. We just don't know yet.

If your doctor isn't directing you to one form of exercise over another, experts suggest starting with something you like and are likely to keep doing. For some people, that's walking. For others, a swimming program suits them better. Still others prefer riding a stationary bike.

Whatever you choose, start slowly, and build up gradually. Try to be consistent. Ten minutes a day is better than one hour, once a week. Get a partner to exercise with you. You're more likely to stick with it if you're doing it with someone else. Some people find it's easier if they always exercise at the same time each day. This eliminates trying to find the best time and not going at all.