The study, done in conjunction with the University of Regina, found that people with chronic backache experienced a 60-percent improvement in pain and function levels after taking part in a 16-week exercise program of resistance training using dumbbells, barbells, and other weight-lifting exercise equipment.
In contrast, those study participants who chose aerobic training such as jogging, walking on a treadmill, or using an elliptical machine for the 16 weeks only experienced a 12-percent improvement.
The extra benefits stem from using the whole-body approach required in resistance training. “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 study reported.
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. Both types of training did provide other fitness benefits, such as lower body fat, the study showed. Aerobics training generally works just the lower body.
About 80 percent of North Americans suffer from lower back pain at some point in their lives, and for 85 percent of them, their pain is chronic.
The findings will be published in early 2009 in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
Great Workouts to Strengthen Your Back
- Cat/Cow: Take the “all-four’s” position on the floor. Keep your head straight so that the gaze of your eyes is toward the floor. Slowly allow your stomach to sag as far as you can so that your back is arched and your face tilts toward the ceiling. Then round your back up at the waist as far as you can as you lower the top of your head toward the floor. All motion should be initiated from your low back. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
- Back Crunches: Lie face-down and outstretched on your stomach. Place hands under your face or shoulders. Keep your feet firmly on the floor. Contract your lower back muscles and raise your upper body until your chest comes off the floor, then lower yourself back down. Exhale as you lift and inhale as you lower. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions. Modify as needed.
- Leg Raises: Lie face-down and stretched out, head turned to one side. Place your hands on your hips. Keep your abdomen tightly contracted. Slowly raise your left leg off the floor, then lower it slowly. Focus on squeezing the muscle above your hip. Make sure your hips stay stable and don’t move from side to side. Perform 10 repetitions on the right leg, then move to the left leg. Repeat 3 times.
- Lat Pulldowns: Take the bar with a wide comfortable grip, while putting your knees underneath the pad. Sit up straight and pull the bar down smoothly until it touches the top of your chest. Now extend your arms back to the top. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions.