In collaboration with Keck School of Medicine

Walking vs. Yoga: Which Helps Chronic Low Back Pain?

A person walking on a track with good shoes for exercise

Millions of people suffer from chronic low back pain. They are often looking for alternative or natural ways to get some relief. Two options that have been touted over the years are walking and doing yoga. While there have been studies that showed they were both beneficial, they were not sure which is more effective, until now.

A New Research Study on Chronic Low Back Pain

New study published in the August 2020 issue of the journal Medicine shares the results, with walking and yoga being compared in terms of helping people with chronic low back pain [1]. Researchers searched through six databases for controlled trials that fit the standards they have been looking for. They selected 31 trials that included 3,193 patients and had performed over a 10-year period from 2008 to 2018.

Once they had narrowed down the trials they were going to use, the researchers analyzed their data, quality, statistical analysis, and other factors. The goal was to find out which is more beneficial for chronic low back pain, walking or doing a mind-body exercise such as yoga. The results they found may surprise some people.

What the Research Study Found

The research showed that walking is an effective intervention for the short-term, and was superior when it came to benefits that lasted long-term. In comparison, a yoga program was more effective in the short-term, but not as effective for the long term. In other words, yoga provided people with temporary pain relief, but the effects didn’t last long. Walking, however, not only worked in the short-term, but people still experienced pain relief in the long-term too.

The researchers concluded that in light of both methods providing benefits, with one being superior in short-term benefits and the other in long-term, it would be a good idea to incorporate both. Those who have chronic low back pain can receive benefits of doing yoga and walking by creating one program where they do both throughout the week.

Starting a walking program is an easy first step in helping to reduce pain. Start small and build on it until you are walking at least 30 minutes per day. The only thing you need to start a walking program is a good pair of shoes, and you can head out the front door.

To add in yoga, you can either attend a yoga class in person, or you can pick up a $10 yoga mat and do it at home. There are many beginner yoga videos on YouTube for you and keep you going for quite a while. Start out with 10-minute sessions for introductions, and when you feel comfortable, you can increase the time.

USC’s Online, Competency-Based Pain Medicine Degree Programs

USC’s online degree program is suitable for health professionals from a wide variety of fields to increase their knowledge in pain medicine. Expand your skills today!


[1] Medicine. Effectiveness of walking versus mind-body therapies in chronic low back pain. August 2020.

The information and resources contained on this website are for informational purposes only and are not intended to assess, diagnose, or treat any medical and/or mental health disease or condition. The use of this website does not imply nor establish any type of provider-client relationship. Furthermore, the information obtained from this site should not be considered a substitute for a thorough medical and/or mental health evaluation by an appropriately credentialed and licensed professional. Commercial supporters are not involved in the content development or editorial process.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This