Frequent walks can reduce back pain

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Did you know that something as simple as walking can make a huge difference in managing and preventing lower back pain? A recent study published in The Lancet on June 19 has shown that taking regular walks can significantly reduce the risk of experiencing future episodes of low back pain.

This easy, cost-effective activity also improves quality of life, sleep, and mood. Let’s dive into the details of this exciting finding.

The study: Walking to reduce back pain

The study focused on 701 individuals who had recently experienced an episode of low back pain. Participants were divided into two groups: one group followed a personalised walking program and attended six educational sessions with a physiotherapist over six months, while the other group did not receive any specific treatment.

Results showed that those in the walking group were significantly less likely to experience pain that limited their activity. They also had a longer gap before any recurrence of pain, averaging 208 days compared to 112 days for the control group. Additionally, the walking group was half as likely to need time off work or require medical treatment.

The prevalence of low back pain

Low back pain is incredibly common, affecting millions of people worldwide. Dr Tash Pocovi, the lead author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow at Macquarie University, Australia, highlighted its prevalence, stating that in 2020 alone, 620 million people globally reported experiencing low back pain.

“While it’s not considered a life-threatening disease, we can see the very serious impacts it can have on people’s lifestyle, ability to work, and overall quality of life,” Dr Pocovi said.

walks back pain
Photo by Sasun Bughdaryan on Unsplash

She emphasised the importance of focusing on prevention, as seven in ten people who recover from an episode of low back pain will experience a new episode within the next 12 months.

Benefits beyond pain relief

Interestingly, the study found that the benefits of walking extended beyond just pain relief. Pocovi noted that participants reported improved sleep and mood, positive lifestyle changes, and better management of other chronic health conditions. This shows that incorporating regular walking into one’s routine can have a broad range of health benefits.

How much walking is beneficial?

The study provided participants with a rough guide to gradually build up to 30 minutes of walking, five times a week. After three months, most participants were walking three to five days each week for an average of 130 minutes per week. Dr Pocovi encourages the public to walk more, even independently and suggests reaching out to a health professional if they need help getting started.

Dr Pocovi, added a note of caution. She advised that while walking is great, it’s essential not to overdo it, especially if experiencing moderate to severe pain, and to ensure the walking surface is even.

Why is low back pain so common?

Dr Pocovi, explained that our evolutionary past contributes to the high prevalence of low back pain. As humans evolved to walk on two legs, our spines had to adapt to support most of our weight and the pressures of movement. Factors such as general wear and tear, injuries, poor posture, a sedentary lifestyle, and obesity further contribute to low back pain.

Tips to reduce the risk of back pain

To minimise the risk of experiencing low back pain, Dr Pocovi provided the following tips:

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Engage in regular physical activity, including strengthening and stretching exercises to maintain good core strength.
  • Practice good posture.
  • Use proper techniques when lifting heavy objects.
  • Avoid prolonged sitting.
walks back pain
Photo by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash

In line with the recent study, she emphasised that “standing and walking is the best activity for our back.”


Walking regularly can reduce the risk of low back pain returning, improve quality of life, and reduce the need for healthcare visits. This simple activity also improves sleep and mood and helps manage other chronic health conditions. While it’s essential to wait for the green light from your doctor, it’s clear that staying active is crucial. Contrary to some beliefs, remaining immobile or on bed rest after an acute phase of back pain might do more harm than good.

So, lace up your walking shoes and take a step towards a healthier, pain-free life!


Dr. Nikhil Prasad

Dr. Nikhil Prasad is an independent researcher, medical, pharma and health PR consultant, herbalists and phytochemical specialists and a medical and health writer for numerous international publications and sites including his own sites such as Thailand Medical News. He is based either at Sydney, New York, Shanghai, Mumbai or Bangkok.

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