Physical Activity Might Be of Greater Importance for Good Spinal Control Than If You Have Had Pain or Not: A Longitudinal Study

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Study Design.Longitudinal design. A cohort followed in 3 waves of data collection.Objective.The aim of the study was to describe the relationships between the performance of 2 tests of spinal control at the age of 52 years and low back pain, physical activity level, and fitness earlier in life, as well as to describe the cross-sectional relationships between these measures.Summary of Background Data.Altered spinal control has been linked to pain; however, other stimuli may also lead to inability to control the movements of the spine.Methods.Participants answered questions about physical activity and low back pain, and performed physical fitness tests at the age of 16, 34, and 52 years. The fitness test battery included tests of endurance in the back and abdominal muscles, a submaximal bicycle ergometer test to estimate maximal oxygen uptake, and measurements of hip flexion, thoracic spine flexibility, and anthropometrics. Two tests were aggregated to a physical fitness index. At the age of 52, also 2 tests of spinal control, the standing Waiter's bow (WB) and the supine double leg lower (LL) were performed.Results.Logistic regression analyses showed that higher back muscle endurance at the age of 34 years could positively predict WB performance at 52 years and higher physical fitness at the age of 34 could positively predict LL performance at 52 years. Regarding cross-sectional relationships, an inability to perform the WB correctly was associated with lower physical fitness, flexibility and physical activity, and larger waist circumference. An inability to correctly perform the LL was associated with lower physical fitness. One-year prevalence of pain was not significantly associated with WB or LL test performance.Conclusion.An active life resulting in higher physical fitness is related to better spinal control in middle-aged men and women. This further strengthens the importance of physical activity throughout the life span.Level of Evidence: 3

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