A Danish study looks into the role of physical fitness in slipped discs.

A 40 year long study(1) started back in 1970 was designed to investigate the long term impact of physical fitness on the chances of developing a lumbar herniated disc (slipped disc in the lower back).

Physical fitness was determined by measuring the VO2Max.(2)

The theory was that physical fitness would help strengthening the tissues hence decreasing the chances of developing this particular back problem,.

Surprisingly the study indicates that physical fitness has no effect whatsoever. Fit people are just as likely to slip a disc as unfit people. However, three factors increasing the chances of developing a herniated disc were found. They are height, weight and frequent exposure to strenuous work. The strenuous work factor was the dominant risk factor, which can be modified.

A limitation to the study was that only people hospitalised for their disc problem were included, excluding those who had other treatment such as  chiropractic care.


1. Jørgensen et al. Physical fitness as a predictor of herniated lumbar disc disease – a 33-year follow-up in the Copenhagen male study. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2013, 14:86 doi:10.1186/1471-2474-14-86

2. Gyntelberg F: Physical fitness and coronary heart disease in male residents in Copenhagen aged 40–59. Dan Med Bull 1973, 20:1–4.

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