Exercise good for the spine

April 24, 2017
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A world-first study has shown that specific physical activity benefits the discs in our spines and may help to prevent and manage spinal pain.

"Running strengthens the intervertebral disc," recently published in Scientific Reports, challenges conventional wisdom in the field, according to lead researcher Associate Professor Daniel Belavy from Deakin University's Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN).

Until now, discs have been considered a "slow tissue," thought to take much longer to respond to exercise than muscle.

The study's findings represent the first evidence in humans that exercise can benefit the (IVD) metabolism and that specific exercise protocols may improve IVD material properties in the spine.

"Prior research in the last decade had shown that the IVD components are replaced extremely slowly, leading researchers to think it would take longer than the average human lifespan to have an impact on the disc with interventions like exercise or medication," Assoc Prof Belavy said.

"However, in this study we have been able to show that regular , such as jogging, can actually strengthen the IVD.

"These findings gives us hope that we may be able to prescribe physical activity, or advise the community on physical activity guidelines, to 'strengthen' the discs in the spine."

Assoc Prof Belavy said this was particularly important to consider in the younger teenage age bracket, and also when people are in their 20s and 30s, with a view to reducing or preventing back problems throughout the lifespan.

Spinal pain represents one of the greatest costs to developed societies in disability and lost productivity, according to 2016 figures from the Global Burden of Disease Report.

As IVD degeneration and herniation are important contributing factors to spinal pain, the evidence provided by the study that the IVD can be strengthened through exercise may have significant public health implications.

Assoc Prof Belavy said walking exercise may also give the same results as running exercise on the discs.

"Our findings showed no difference between joggers and long-distance runners and, in fact, indicated that walking might be enough.

"It's also important to reduce the amount of time spent in static postures, such as sitting or even standing still.

"Even going for a walk during a break at work, or choosing to take the stairs rather than the elevator is good for the discs, as well as for overall back health."

Explore further: Exercise produces positive effects on the intervertebral discs

More information: Daniel L. Belavý et al. Running exercise strengthens the intervertebral disc, Scientific Reports (2017). DOI: 10.1038/srep45975

Related Stories

Exercise produces positive effects on the intervertebral discs

June 28, 2011
Physical exercise has a positive effect on the formation of cells in the intervertebral discs. This is shown by a study from the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, presented at the annual meeting of the International ...

New tools for back pain prevention

June 4, 2014
European researchers and clinicians are working hand in hand to unveil the mechanisms leading to back pain, likely the most widespread chronic pathology among humans. Until recently, it was assumed that disc degeneration ...

How much exercise do you need, and what kind?

April 24, 2015
If you've ever wondered about the benefits of exercise and why we should all try to get our fair share of it, here are some tips:

Exercise not shown to reduce women's risk of developing multiple sclerosis

September 28, 2016
A large, new study shows no evidence that exercise may reduce a woman's risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS). The research is published in the September 28, 2016, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the ...

Recommended for you

Expert: Be concerned about how apps collect, share health data

October 20, 2017
As of 2016 there were more than 165,000 health and wellness apps available though the Apple App Store alone. According to Rice University medical media expert Kirsten Ostherr, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates ...

Three million Americans carry loaded handguns daily, study finds

October 19, 2017
An estimated 3 million adult American handgun owners carry a firearm loaded and on their person on a daily basis, and 9 million do so on a monthly basis, new research indicates. The vast majority cited protection as their ...

More teens than ever aren't getting enough sleep

October 19, 2017
If you're a young person who can't seem to get enough sleep, you're not alone: A new study led by San Diego State University Professor of Psychology Jean Twenge finds that adolescents today are sleeping fewer hours per night ...

Across Asia, liver cancer is linked to herbal remedies: study

October 18, 2017
Researchers have uncovered widespread evidence of a link between traditional Chinese herbal remedies and liver cancer across Asia, a study said Wednesday.

Eating better throughout adult years improves physical fitness in old age, suggests study

October 18, 2017
People who have a healthier diet throughout their adult lives are more likely to be stronger and fitter in older age than those who don't, according to a new study led by the University of Southampton.

Global calcium consumption appears low, especially in Asia

October 18, 2017
Daily calcium intake among adults appears to vary quite widely around the world in distinct regional patterns, according to a new systematic review of research data ahead of World Osteoporosis Day on Friday, Oct. 20.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.