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Weight Lifting Relieves More Back Pain Than Cardio

A study from the University of Alberta reveals that people who suffer from back pain will do better by choosing to lift weights than to do other forms of exercise. Researchers found a sixty percent improvement in back pain and overall functioning among people with chronic backache who used weight training for 16 weeks.

The study was conducted in conjunction with the University of Regina, and the results are to be published in early 2009 in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. One group of participants used dumbbells, barbells, and other weight-bearing equipment to strengthen their back muscles, while another group used aerobic training exercises such as jogging, using an elliptical machine, or walking on a treadmill. The second group only saw a 12 percent improvement in their pain, far less than the weight-training group.

"Any activity that makes you feel better is something you should pursue, but the research indicates that we get better pain management results from resistance training," said Robert Kell, an assistant professor of exercise physiology at the University of Alberta, Augustana Campus. "We tried to strengthen the entire body and by doing that, we decreased the fatigue people felt throughout the day. They were better able to perform their activities of daily living."

The researchers believe the extra benefits stem from using the whole-body approach required in resistance training, while aerobics training generally works just the lower body.

They also found that the frequency of training was important to reducing back pain. Those who exercised four days each week had 28% less pain, 36 percent less disability and an overall better quality of life than those who only exercised two or three times per week.

Kell presented some of the findings May 30 at the American College of Sports Medicine conference in Seattle, Washington.

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