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A simple exercise can do wonders for your lower back.

Eighty to 90 percent of people have back problems at some time in their lives," says physical therapist Rich Baudry, owner of Baudry Therapy Center (2721 N. Causeway Blvd., Metairie, 841-0150; www.baudrytherapy.com). "At any given time, about 25 percent of people have lower back pain. It's a big problem."

  Much of the back pain results from the way we work and live, spending long hours at a computer, talking on the phone, watching TV and other activities, says Baudry, who has a doctorate in physical therapy and is an orthopedic certified specialist. "In my opinion, it's a lot of our lifestyle ... repetitive stress," he says. "The biggest thing is learning what to do about it. People are afraid they don't know the right thing to do, so they do nothing."

  He recommends a simple quadruped leg-lift exercise to strengthen the lower back to alleviate or prevent pain. The exercise will work the muscles right above your hips.

  Beginners should perform the first exercise shown below, but place an exercise ball under you for stability. Once you are more stable, remove the ball and move on to the intermediate, then advanced, positions. Baudry recommends you start with 10 repetitions per leg, then repeat the set.

Intermediate level



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1.

Donna Brown, a Pilates instructor at Baudry Therapy Center, shows the correct starting stance: hands flat on the floor, arms straight and at a 90-degree angle to your shoulders, knees bent with thighs at a 90-degree angle to your hips. pull your belly toward your spine to help keep your back straight.



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2.

Slowly extend and raise your leg as far as you can without arching or twisting your back, holding your lower abdomen firm. Slowly lower your leg and repeat nine times, then switch legs.

ADVANCED LEVEL



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3.

Starting stance: elbows bent, forearms on floor, upper arms at 90-degree angle to shoulders; legs extended straight behind; back straight and tummy pulled firm against the spine.



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4.

Slowly raise your leg, keeping your back straight, then slowly lower it. Repeat 10 times, then switch legs.

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