The association between leisure time physical activity and low back pain in young adults is unclear and is in the need of prospectively obtained evidence. This study examined the course of low back pain and the association between low back pain and leisure time physical activity in a cohort of young adults in their transition from school to working life.
Both low back pain and leisure time physical activity was monitored over a 6.5 year period in 420 subjects starting out as students within hairdressing, electrical installation and media/design. The association between physical activity and low back pain was investigated through the follow-up period by using linear mixed models analysis.
Low back pain was significantly influenced by time and overall there was a decreasing trend of low back pain prevalence throughout the follow-up. Analysis showed a weak trend of decreasing low back pain with moderate/high physical activity levels, but this association was not significant.
Low back pain decreased during follow-up with baseline as reference. Findings in our study did show non-significant trends of reduced low back pain with increased leisure time physical activity. Still, we could not support the theory of moderate/high levels of physical activity acting protective against low back pain in young adults entering working life. Our results, in combination with previous relevant research, cannot support a clear relationship between physical activity and low back pain for young adults. Thus, recommendations regarding effect of physical activity on reducing low back pain for this group are not clear.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12889-015-2446-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.