People who exercise more than 1 hour per week have a lower risk of troublesome back, neck, and shoulder pain, says a Reuters Health article based on a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
For this study, Norwegian researchers followed more than 30,000 adults, recording their body mass index (BMI) and how often they exercised at the start of the study and tracked them over the next 11 years. The authors divided the participants into 4 categories based on how often they exercised, and 4 categories based on their BMI. They also looked at how many people in each category developed chronic neck, shoulder, and lower back pain.
Overall, 1 of every 10 people in the study developed lower back pain, and nearly 2 of every 10 developed shoulder or neck pain. After taking into account participants' age, BMI, whether or not they smoked, and whether they did manual labor at work, the research team found that men who were exercising 2 hours or more per week at the start of the study were 25% less likely to have lower back pain 11 years later, and 20% less likely to have neck or shoulder pain, compared with men who didn't exercise at all. Women who exercised at least 2 hours per week were 8% less likely to develop lower back pain than women who were inactive, and 9% less likely to develop neck and shoulder pain.
Weight also affected the risk of chronic pain later on, says the article. Men who were obese were almost 21% more likely to develop chronic lower back pain than men of normal weight, and 22% more likely to develop neck or shoulder pain. Women classified as obese were 21% more likely to develop lower back pain than women of normal weight, and 19% more likely to develop neck and shoulder pain.