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Chiropractic Research Review

Testing Aerobic Fitness in LBP Patients: Which Test Is Best?

Many factors contribute to aerobic fitness, including physical activity levels, exercise habits, and genetics. Little is known about levels of aerobic fitness in patients with low back pain (LBP), although rehabilitation programs often emphasize aerobic therapy as an important component of therapy.



Thirty patients (18-60 years old) with chronic LBP participated in a study designed to determine, by comparing three exercise tests, which is most effective in evaluating aerobic fitness. Patients performed three symptom-limited maximal exercise tests: a treadmill, an upper extremity ergometer, and a bicycle ergometer. Heart rate was continuously monitored, and oxygen consumption was measured by indirect calorimetry at 30-second intervals.

image - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark


Results: The treadmill test yielded the highest peak and predicted oxygen consumption, followed by the bicycle test and the upper extremity ergometer test, respectively. The authors conclude that "the treadmill test is the best test for measuring aerobic fitness levels in patients with chronic low back pain... coming closest to measuring maximal oxygen consumption." They also note that the treadmill test is the most functional and practical of the three tests because it uses walking (an everyday action) and because most clinics have access to such equipment.

Wittink H, Michel TH, Kulich R, et al. Aerobic testing in patients with chronic low back pain: which test is best? Spine 2000:25(13), pp1704-1710.

Chiropractic Research Review

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