NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – A large, population-based study conducted in Norway shows that physical exercise is associated with a lower prevalence of chronic musculoskeletal complaints more than a decade later.
Physical inactivity and chronic musculoskeletal complaints share “several negative determinants of health,” Dr. Helene Sulutvedt Holth of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim and colleagues point out in the December 1 issue of the online journal BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders.
The team evaluated results of two public health studies in which 39,520 participants responded to questions about physical activity patterns between 1984 and 1986 and to questions about chronic musculoskeletal complaints eleven years later between 1995 and 1997.
Chronic musculoskeletal complaints (MSCs) were defined as MSCs lasting three months or more during the year previous to the questionnaire. Chronic widespread MSCs were defined as pain in the axial region, above the waist or below the waist for 15 days or more during the previous month.
At the follow-up questionnaire, Dr. Holth and associates found that 51% of respondents reported chronic MSCs and 5.9% reported chronic widespread MSCs.
Participants who exercised at baseline were less likely to report chronic MSCs, with an odds ratio (OR) of 0.91 compared with inactive individuals. Those who exercised three or more times a week had an OR of 0.72 for chronic widespread MSCs.
“In the present study, a participant’s physical activity level is based on leisure time exercise only,” Dr. Holth and colleagues caution, noting that “the impact of occupational physical workload might also have contributed to the results.”
The study results may lead to a better understanding of the processes leading to musculoskeletal complaints, the researchers say. “Future studies should try to clarify whether chronic MSCs are a cause or a consequence of inactivity.”
BMC Musculoskelet Disord 2008;9.