Increased abdominal fat is common in the aging adult. Along with it comes an increased risk of low back pain (LBP). According to the results of this study, isolated strength training may help slow the effects of aging on the low back.
Studies show that obese adults are more likely to have LBP. Obese adults with LBP are less likely to remain active and seem to walk less than obese adults who don't have back pain. The goal of this study was to see if lumbar strength training could prevent some of these back problems.
Eighty-four (84) healthy adults were divided into two groups based on their body mass index (BMI). BMI is a measure of obesity based on height and weight. Only overweight (not obese) adults and adults without back pain were selected for the study. The two groups were further divided into two groups each.
One group followed an exercise program three times a week for six months. Exercises were done for the abdominal muscles, calves, legs, and arms. Extension exercises for the low back were done once a week. Based on the results of other studies, once a week is all that's needed for lumbar extension exercises. The other group had no further training. They were told to keep up their regular activities but not to start any new exercises.
Baseline measurements of strength were taken before the study started. The overweight (OVW) group had greater overall strength than the non-overweight (NOVW) group. When the two groups were compared by muscle mass only, then overall strength was equal between the two groups. At the end of the study, low back strength was improved in both the OVW and NOVW groups. There was no change in the nontraining (control) groups.
The authors conclude lumbar extensor strength can be improved in all older adults regardless of weight. Such exercises should be done to reduce the chances of LBP.
Kevin R. Vincent, MD, PhD, et al. Influence of Resistance Exercise on Lumbar Strength in Older, Overweight Adults. In Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. March 2006. Vol. 87. No. 3. Pp. 383-389.