Joint pain affects millions of people for a variety of reasons, including age, obesity, injury, and disease. Medical professionals recommend exercise to relieve most joint pain. But what type of exercise produces the best results: Weights and strength training or cardio?

strength training or cardio to reduce joint pain

What is joint pain? 

Joint pain is common and usually occurs in the hands, feet, hips, knees, or spine. The pain may be constant or it may come and go. Sometimes the joint feels stiff, aches, or hurts. Some people complain of a burning, throbbing or “grinding” sensation. Also, the joint may feel stiff in the morning, but with movement and activity, it loosens up and feels better. Too much activity, however, can make the pain worse.

Who is more likely to experience joint pain? 

Those who are prone to joint pain have injured a joint or repeatedly strained or overworked a muscle in the past. Many suffer from a disease such as arthritis, gout, tendinitis or other chronic ailments. Mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety and stress can also worsen joint pain. Being overweight or obese can adversely affect joints, accelerating wear and tear on joints and exacerbating other factors of poor health that increase the likelihood of joint pain. And sometimes the reason is simply age. After years of use and wear and tear on the joints, middle-aged or elderly adults may experience problems. 

What is strength training? 

Strength training (also called resistance training or weight training) is the use of resistance to muscle contraction to build strength, anaerobic endurance, and skeletal muscle size.

Resistance training is based on the principle that the muscles of the body will work to overcome resistance when required to do so. If you do resistance training repeatedly and consistently, your muscles will get stronger. 

Benefits of strength training 

  • Improved muscle strength and tone – to protect your joints from injury.
  • Maintaining flexibility and balance, which can help you stay independent as you age.
  • Weight management and increasing muscle-to-fat ratio – when you build muscle, your body burns more kilojoules at rest.
  • This can help reduce or prevent cognitive decline in the elderly.
  • Greater endurance – as you get stronger, you do not tyre as quickly.
  • Prevention or control of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, back pain, depression and obesity.
  • Pain management.
  • Improved mobility and balance.
  • Improved posture.
  • Increased bone density and strength and decreased risk of osteoporosis.
  • Improved well-being – Resistance training can boost your confidence, improve your body image, lift your mood and increase self-esteem.
  • Improved sleep and prevention of insomnia.

 

There are many ways you can strengthen your muscles, whether at home or in the gym. 

6 types of resistance training: 

  1. Free weights – classic strength training equipment such as dumbbells, barbells and kettlebells.
  2. Medicine balls or sandbags – weighted balls or bags.
  3. Weight machines – equipment with adjustable seats and handles attached to either weights or hydraulics.
  4. Resistance bands – like giant rubber bands – these provide resistance when stretched. They are portable and can be adapted to most workouts. The bands provide continuous resistance during a movement.
  5. Suspension equipment – a piece of exercise equipment that uses gravity and the user’s body weight to perform various exercises.
  6. Your own body weight – can be used for squats, push-ups and pull-ups. Using your own body weight is convenient, especially when travelling or working. 

 

What is cardio? 

Cardio is any type of exercise that gets your heart rate up and maintains it for an extended period of time. Your respiratory system will work harder as you breathe faster and deeper. Your blood vessels will dilate to supply more oxygen to your muscles, and your body will release natural painkillers (endorphins). 

Benefits of cardio exercise 

  • Gets your blood pumping – blood moves more efficiently throughout your body and strengthens your heart. This lowers blood pressure and regulates blood sugar.
  • Strengthens your immune system – helps keep your blood cells and cytokines (a type of proteins) healthy. Both of these components are key to immune system regulation.
  • Improved muscle strength and tone – to protect your joints from injury.
  • Maintaining flexibility, mobility and balance.
  • Weight management – burning excess calories and building muscle contribute to maintaining a healthy weight or weight-loss.
  • Healthy brain – this can help reduce or prevent cognitive decline.
  • Prevention or control of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, back pain, depression and obesity.
  • Pain management.
  • Improved posture.
  • Increased bone density and strength and decreased risk of osteoporosis.
  • Improved well-being – cardio exercise can improve your body image and boost your confidence.
  • Improved sleep and prevention of insomnia.
  • Better concentration and improved performance of everyday tasks.

 

There 3 types of cardio exercises 

High-impact cardio – Any cardiovascular activity that requires you to leave the ground with both feet at any given time is called high impact cardio. It is also called weight-bearing exercise because you are supporting your own body weight with your limbs against gravity. Examples include jumping rope, aerobic dance, and certain forms of advanced strength training.

Low-impact cardio – Any cardiovascular activity that keeps one foot on the ground at all times. Low-impact cardio should not be confused with low-intensity cardio, however, as many types of low-impact activities are of high intensity. Low-impact cardio is still weight-bearing exercise and good for maintaining healthy bones and conditioning the lungs and heart. Examples of low-impact cardio include walking, hiking, and low-impact aerobic dance.

No-impact cardio – When cardiovascular exercise is performed in water, the activity is classified as no-impact because being immersed in water reduces the pull of gravity on the body. So swimming and water aerobics are no-impact cardio activities. Cycling is also a no-impact cardio exercise because the tires and frame of the bike support most of the body weight. No-impact cardio such as cycling and aquatic exercise are ideal if you have arthritic condition or are undergoing injury rehabilitation as they eliminate most of the jarring and pounding associated with land-based cardio activity. 

5 common cardio exercises include: 

  1. Running, brisk walking or jogging
  2. Swimming or water aerobics,
  3. Cycling/bicycling
  4. Circuit training
  5. Hiking

5 types of cardio performed on machines include: 

  1. Treadmill or elliptical trainer
  2. Stepping machine
  3. Stationary cycles, recumbent bike or upright bike
  4. Rowing machine
  5. Stair climber 

 

A well-rounded fitness program includes strength training to improve joint function, bone density, muscle, tendon and ligament strength, as well as cardio exercise to improve your heart and lung fitness, flexibility and balance exercises. Treatment should focus not only on pain but also on the affected activities and functions.

 

If you are already struggling with joint and muscle pain due to age, disease, injury or obesity, reach out to The Back Clinic. Their therapists specialize in helping patients identify, manage and treat their conditions and pain. Contact them on 0630975603 or via email at info@thebackclinic.co.za

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