Plentiful exercise has positive effect on vertebra size

The winning study in the annual research competition organized by the Finnish Society for Back Research has shown that above-average lifelong leisure-time physical activity is connected with vertebra size in middle-aged women.

The winner of the research competition organized by the Finnish Society for Back Research in 2017 is Bachelor of Medicine Petteri Oura from the University of Oulu. His winning study looked at the connection between lifelong leisure-time physical activity and vertebra size in 1188 middle-aged women in Northern Finland. The motive for studying the connection was the previous discovery that small vertebrae increase the risk for osteoporotic fracture.

The leisure-time physical activity of the study subjects was asked with questionnaires at the ages of 14, 31 and 46, and their vertebrae dimensions were determined with a magnetic resonance imaging at the age of 47.

The study subjects were first divided in three groups based on how much they had done leisure-time physical activity in their lifetime: much, varyingly, or little. When the groups were compared, it was discovered that the vertebrae of the women who had had the most exercise were bigger than the vertebrae of those who had had the least exercise. In men, no differences in vertebrae dimensions were detected.

Even though the differences between people with the most exercise and the least exercise were small, the study suggests that women might be able to increase their vertebra size and decrease their risk of fractures with how they exercise.

The competition was supported by HUR ( and the Orto hospital for invalids.

The winning publication: Oura P, Paananen M, Niinimäki J, Tammelin T, Herrala S, Auvinen J, Korpelainen R, Junno JA & Karppinen J. Effects of leisure-time physical activity on vertebral dimensions in the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966.Scientific Reports 6:27844 (2016).

Last updated: 24.3.2017