It has been generally recommended for people who are overweight/obese to engage in exercise, and data now suggests that doing so may reduce the risks of experiencing low back pain. Matthew Smuck, from Stanford University Medical Center (California, USA), and colleagues analyzed data on 6,796 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The team found that in people who were normal weight, defined as a body mass index of 20 to 25, the risk of low back pain was 2.9%. In those who were overweight (BMI of 26 to 30), low back pain risk was 5.2%. In the obese, a BMI of 31 to 35, the risk grew to 7.7%. And in the morbidly obese, a BMI of 36 or more, the risk was 11.6%. The researchers also found that moderate exercise can reduce the risks of low back pain. They note that the typical overweight person increasing their amount of moderate activity such as brisk walking, riding a bike, or general gardening by less than 20 minutes a day can reduce back pain risk by 32%. Further, in people with BMIs of 36 or more, increasing the duration of time spent during a bout of moderate activity to 2.3 minutes could drop the risk of back pain by 38%.
Smuck M et al. “Does Physical Activity Influence the Relationship Between Low Back Pain and Obesity? Presented at the North American Spine Society 28th Annual Meeting, 10 Oct. 2013.
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