Physical Activity Does Not Protect from Vertebral Fracture

A recent study found no correlation between physical activity and vertebral fracture prevention.

“Vertebral fractures are common osteoporotic fractures, affecting 2–46% of the population, causing morbidity and increased risk of mortality. Physical activity has beneficial effects for bone health, including increased bone mineral density and reduced hip fractures. However, evidence concerning prevention of vertebral fractures is scarce,” the researchers wrote. Their findings were published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders.

To conduct their study, the authors collected data from the 2001 and 2007–2008 surveys of the Tromsø Study. Data were available for 1,904 patients (women, n = 1,030, age 38–87 years; men, n = 874, age 40–87 years) for the cross-sectional analysis (2007-2008); prospective physical activity follow-up data (2007–2008) were available for 1,131 patients (women, n = 636, age 32–69 years; men, n = 495, age 33–69 years). Patients completed a questionnaire and underwent lateral vertebral fracture assessment via dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scans. When analyzing the data, researchers controlled for age, height, weight, smoking, osteoporosis, osteoporosis medication, left hip total bone mineral density, and use of hormones (in women only).

Compared to sedentary women, there were no observed associations between physical activity levels and vertebral fractures in moderately active women (odds ratio [OR], 1.13; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.59–2.13) or highly active women (OR, 1.44; 95% CI, 0.61–3.42). Among the men, compared to those who were sedentary, the ORs for vertebral fracture were 1.74 (95% CI, 0.91–3.35) for moderately active men and 1.64 (95% CI, 0.78–3.41) for highly active men. In the prospective analyses, compared to women with sedentary unchanged physical activity, the OR for vertebral fracture in women with reduced physical activity was 0.81 (95% CI, 0.18–3.62); for women with increased physical activity, 1.24 (95% CI, 0.29–5.26); and for women with active unchanged physical activity, 1.54 (95% CI, 0.43–5.50). Among the men, compared to those with sedentary unchanged physical activity, the ORs were 2.05 (95% CI, 0.57–7.42), 2.23 (95% CI, 0.63–7.87), and 1.81 (95% CI, 0.54–6.02), respectively. Subanalyses by age ≥ 50 years yielded comparable outcomes.

The researchers concluded, “Our findings suggest that physical activity, which is an important health promoting factor, does not play any major role in preventing vertebral fracture in adult and elderly women and men. Future studies on this topic might benefit from objectively measured physical activity and a longitudinal study design in predicting vertebral fracture.”