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Lower-Back Pain and High-Intensity Training

Gains from HIT last longer than moderate-intensity training.

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Exercise and lower-back pain

Exercise is known to be an effective treatment for chronic, nonspecific lower-back pain—a common malady experienced by millions—but the pain frequently returns over time. International researchers wanted to compare the long-term effectiveness of moderate- (MIT) versus high-intensity exercise training (HIT) on disability, pain intensity, functional ability and more for people with back pain. Investigators compared 35 subjects (randomly assigned to participate in HIT or MIT for 12 weeks) at the outset of the study, directly after the 12-week training program and 6 months later.

Data analysis showed that immediately after the 12-week exercise program, those in the HIT group experienced less disability and higher exercise capacity than MIT subjects. Six months later, this heightened improvement continued. Study authors recommend more research to determine why HIT does a better job at improving outcomes. For example, future research can determine whether benefits are from increased physical demands, improved muscle or anti-inflammatory factors or whether it’s from increased self-efficacy and/or reduced fear of movement (or a combination of reasons). These insights may improve therapy protocols.

The research is published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (2021; 18 [20], 10779).

See also: Exercise and Chronic Lower-Back Pain



Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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