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Association Between Exercise and Low Back Pain Resulting in Modified Duty and Lost Time

A Cross-Sectional Analysis of an Occupational Population

Walker, Skyler D., BS; Brown, Holden L., MBA; Thiese, Matthew S., PhD, MSPH; Ott, Ulrike, PhD, MSPH; Wood, Eric, MD; Kapellusch, Jay, PhD; Hegmann, Kurt T., MD, MPH

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: October 2018 - Volume 60 - Issue 10 - p 896–900
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000001372

Objective: The aim of the study was to assess the relationship between leisure time exercise and whether workers ever had modified duty or lost time (MD/LT) due to low back pain (LBP) in an occupational cohort.

Methods: Workers (N = 827) completed a structured interview assessing characteristics of their LBP, whether or not the pain caused modified or lost work time, and their participation in leisure time exercise. Odds ratio of modified/lost time and minutes of exercise participation were assessed.

Results: Workers who participated in over 316 min/wk of leisure time exercise incurred significantly less modified/lost time, adjusted odds ratio = 0.46 (95% confidence interval, 0.23 to 0.98). There also lies a significant trend between increases in leisure time exercise and reductions in modified/lost time (P = 0.0016).

Conclusion: These results suggest exercise reduces risk of MD/LT from LBP.

Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Address correspondence to: Kurt T. Hegmann, MD, MPH, 391 Chipeta Way, Salt Lake City, UT 84108 (

Funded, in part, by grants from CDC/NIOSH (1K01OH009794 and 3TC42OH008414).

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Copyright © 2018 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine