Regular and prolonged walking was found to be associated with reduced risk for low back pain in South Koreans age >50, according to a study published in Spine Journal.

Although evidence suggests that physical activity may be beneficial in individuals with low back pain, the association between walking duration and low back pain has not been examined. In this cross-sectional study, data from the Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys V and VI collected between 2010 and 2015 were analyzed. A total of 48,482 people were asked to complete questionnaires regarding low back pain, daily walking activity (ie, walking >30 min/day and >1 hour/day; walking frequency <3, 3 to 4, and ≥5 days per week), and comorbidities (0, 1, or ≥2).

There were 17,113 participants included in the final analysis, with 4227 reporting low back pain (mean age, 67.3; 74.8% women) and 13,332 study participants without low back pain (mean age, 63.1; 51.9% women). Of study participants reporting low back pain, 54.1% reported walking <3 days/week for >30 minutes and 73.2% reported walking <3 days/week for >1 hour. A negative association was established between walking >30 minutes at a time for >3 days/week and having low back pain in the unadjusted (odds ratio [OR], 0.65; 95% CI, 0.61-0.70; P <.001) and fully adjusted (OR, 0.79; 95% CI, 0.72-0.86; P <.001) analyses. 

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A negative association was established between walking >1 hour at a time for ≥5 days/week and having low back pain in the unadjusted (OR, 0.62; 95% CI, 0.57-0.68; P <.001) and fully adjusted (OR, 0.76; 95% CI, 0.69-0.85; P <.001) models. In all instances, P-values were <.001, with the risk for having low back pain linearly decreasing as walking frequency and duration increased.

Study strengths include the use of a large representative sample from the general population. Study limitations include its cross-sectional design, which precludes the establishment of a causal relationship; the lack of information on the degree or severity of low back pain; the potential lack of generalizability to other ethnicities, and the sole inclusion of individuals age >50.

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“Clinicians should be aware that regular walking for over 30 min[utes] three times per week is negatively related with [low back pain]; therefore, they should advise patients with [low back pain] to increase their walking duration for optimal [low back pain] improvement,” noted the study authors.


This work was supported by an Institute for Information & Communications Technology Promotion (IITP) grant by the South Korea government (MSIT; No.2017-0-018715, Development of AR-based Surgery Toolkit and Applications).


Park S-M, Kim G-U, Kim H-J, et al. Walking more than 90 minutes/week was associated with a lower risk of self-reported low back pain in persons over 50 years of age: a cross-sectional study using the Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys [published online November 15, 2018]. Spine J. doi:10.1016/j.spinee.2018.11.007

This article originally appeared on Clinical Pain Advisor