Strength training reduces back pain more than cardio workouts

When it comes to reducing back pain, strength training, aka resistance training, that strengthens the muscles surrounding the back can have a greater effect than not working out at all or doing cardiovascular training.
Back problems led to 139 million doctor visits in the United States in 2005 at an expenditure of $17.6 billion, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Medical Expenditure Panel Survey.
With back problems commonplace, fitness trainers and people who make up their own workouts alike are constantly trying to come up with programs to improve back problems.
Research shows back pain relief can come in the form of strength training for many types of problems.
In the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (Feb. 7, 2009) an experiment was set up to determine the best method for low-back-pain rehabilitation.
Twenty-seven subjects with back pain were divided evenly into three groups: resistance training, cardiovascular training and a non-exercise control.
* During a 16-week study, the resistance training group performed exercises using dumbbells, barbells and other equipment such as functional trainers.
* The cardiovascular group worked out regularly on either a treadmill or an elliptical machine.
When final data was tabulated from the study, the resistance training group decreased body fat percentage and “improved most musculoskeletal fitness, pain, disability and quality of life outcomes.”
The cardiovascular group showed improved body composition, cardiovascular output and flexibility, but no progress was made with regard to back pain.
“The primary finding was that periodized resistance training was successful at improving many fitness, pain, disability, and quality of life outcome measures, whereas (cardiovascular training) was not,” stated the authors of the study. “This study indicates that whole-body periodized resistance training can be used by training and conditioning personnel in the rehabilitation of those clients suffering with chronic nonspecific low-back pain.”
Obviously, not all back problems have similar causes or ways to fix them. As always when starting a new workout routine consult a doctor or certified trainer first.

At Home Fitness consultant Aaron Dorksen’s blog deals with a variety of fitness topics, ranging from workout tips, motivational ideas and feature stories on how exercise impacts people’s lives. E-mail him with comments, questions or ideas for future blogs at

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