Study Finds This Simple Exercise Can Actually Help Reduce Lower Back Pain

By: Sam Watanuki | Published: Jun 24, 2024

Walking three times a week can almost halve the risk of recurring back pain, according to a groundbreaking study.

This simple exercise has shown to have a profound impact on the leading cause of disability worldwide, making it an accessible solution for many.

The Scope of the Problem

Around 800 million people suffer from low back pain globally. Seven in ten who recover from an episode experience a flare-up within a year.

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The findings highlight the need for effective and easily implementable preventive measures.

Key Findings from the Study

In the world’s first randomized controlled trial, researchers followed 701 adults for three years.

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Participants were divided into two groups, with one group receiving a walking scheme and physiotherapy sessions, and the other receiving no specific intervention.

Significant Results for Walkers

The walking group had fewer occurrences of activity-limiting pain and experienced longer periods before a recurrence.

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On average, they remained pain-free for nearly twice as long as those who did not receive treatment.

Quotes from the Experts

Mark Hancock, senior author and professor of physiotherapy, emphasized the importance of starting with short walks and gradually increasing distance and intensity.

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He noted that walking is a low-cost, widely accessible exercise that almost anyone can engage in.

The Importance of Consistency

Participants who walked three to five times a week for an average of 130 minutes reported significant improvements in their quality of life.

A close-up of a person’s athletic shoes as they walk on a road.

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They also had to take nearly half as much time off work due to pain compared to the control group.


Why Walking Works

The study suggests that the gentle oscillatory movements of walking help load and strengthen spinal structures and muscles.

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Additionally, walking provides relaxation, stress relief, and the release of endorphins, which all contribute to reducing back pain.


Additional Health Benefits

Walking not only helps prevent back pain but also offers other health benefits, such as improved cardiovascular health, bone density, weight management, and mental health.

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These benefits make walking an excellent all-around exercise.


Real-Life Testimony

Rory Fagan, a trial participant, found significant relief from a back injury sustained while playing rugby. Despite initial hesitation, regular walking helped reduce his episodes of debilitating pain, highlighting the effectiveness of this simple exercise.

A woman running up a flight of stairs.

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“The thing with back pain is most people’s instinct is to not do anything, because even taking a step can send a jolt or spasm up your back,” he said. “Exercise is a path to reducing pain in the long term, so if you have a flare-up, you should keep doing what you can.”


Expert Endorsements

Professor Kamila Hawthorne from the Royal College of GPs in the UK welcomed the research, emphasizing its importance in developing and updating clinical guidance.

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Dr. Athalie Redwood-Brown also highlighted the potential of walking to transform preventive care, noting that it’s “a scalable solution that could benefit millions.”


Starting Your Walking Routine

You don’t need to walk 5 or 10 miles every day to see benefits.

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Start with short walks and gradually increase your distance and intensity as your fitness improves. Aim for 30 minutes, five times a week, over a six-month period for optimal results.


Making Walking Accessible

Walking is a universally accessible exercise, making it an ideal solution for people of all ages, geographic locations, and socioeconomic statuses. Its simplicity and effectiveness are what make it such a powerful tool for preventing back pain.

A person walks on a path surrounded by grass and trees as the sun sets.

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The study’s surprising findings have the potential to reshape how we approach back pain prevention globally. By incorporating regular walking into our routines, we can significantly reduce the incidence and recurrence of low back pain, improving overall quality of life for millions.