PLoS ONE (2017-01-01)

Individual preferences for physical exercise as secondary prevention for non-specific low back pain: A discrete choice experiment.

  • Emmanuel Aboagye,
  • Jan Hagberg,
  • Iben Axén,
  • Lydia Kwak,
  • Malin Lohela-Karlsson,
  • Eva Skillgate,
  • Gunilla Dahlgren,
  • Irene Jensen

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 12, no. 12
p. e0187709


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Exercise is effective in improving non-specific low back pain (LBP). Certain components of physical exercise, such as the type, intensity and frequency of exercise, are likely to influence participation among working adults with non-specific LBP, but the value and relative importance of these components remain unknown. The study's aim was to examine such specific components and their influence on individual preferences for exercise for secondary prevention of non-specific LBP among working adults.In a discrete choice experiment, working individuals with non-specific LBP answered a web-based questionnaire. Each respondent was given ten pairs of hypothetical exercise programs and asked to choose one option from each pair. The choices comprised six attributes of exercise (i.e., type of training, design, intensity, frequency, proximity and incentives), each with either three or four levels. A conditional logit regression that reflected the random utility model was used to analyze the responses.The final study population consisted of 112 participants. The participants' preferred exercise option was aerobic (i.e., cardiovascular) rather than strength training, group exercise with trainer supervision, rather than individual or unsupervised exercise. They also preferred high intensity exercise performed at least once or twice per week. The most popular types of incentive were exercise during working hours and a wellness allowance rather than coupons for sports goods. The results show that the relative value of some attribute levels differed between young adults (age ≤ 44 years) and older adults (age ≥ 45 years) in terms of the level of trainer supervision required, exercise intensity, travel time to exercise location and financial incentives. For active study participants, exercise frequency (i.e., twice per week, 1.15; CI: 0.25; 2.06) influenced choice of exercise. For individuals with more than one child, travel time (i.e., 20 minutes, -0.55; CI: 0.65; 3.26) was also an influential attribute for choice of exercise, showing that people with children at home preferred to exercise close to home.This study adds to our knowledge about what types of exercise working adults with back pain are most likely to participate in. The exercise should be a cardiovascular type of training carried out in a group with trainer supervision. It should also be of high intensity and preferably performed twice per week during working hours. Coupons for sports goods do not appear to motivate physical activity among workers with LBP. The findings of the study could have a substantial impact on the planning and development of exercise provision and promotion strategies to improve non-specific LBP. Providers and employers may be able to improve participation in exercise programs for adults with non-specific LBP by focusing on the exercise components which are the most attractive. This in turn would improve satisfaction and adherence to exercise interventions aimed at preventing recurrent non-specific LBP.