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Original article
Effect of occupational physical activities on vertebral dimensions in midlife in the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966
  1. Petteri Oura1,2,3,
  2. Markus Paananen1,2,
  3. Jaakko Niinimäki1,3,
  4. Juha Auvinen1,2,
  5. Leena Ala-Mursula2,
  6. Juho-Antti Junno1,2,4,5,
  7. Jaro Karppinen1,2,6
  1. 1Medical Research Center Oulu, Oulu University Hospital and University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
  2. 2Faculty of Medicine, Center for Life Course Health Research, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
  3. 3Faculty of Medicine, Research Unit of Medical Imaging, Physics and Technology, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
  4. 4Faculty of Medicine, Cancer and Translational Medicine Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
  5. 5Faculty of Humanities, Department of Archaeology, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
  6. 6Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Oulu, Finland
  1. Correspondence to Petteri Oura, Faculty of Medicine, Center for Life Course Health Research, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland, P.O. Box 5000, Oulu 90014, Finland; petteri.oura{at}


Objectives The vertebral cross-sectional area (CSA) is a major determinant of vertebral strength. Since leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) is known to affect vertebral CSA, we hypothesised that engagement in physical activity at work might have similar effects on vertebral size. We aimed to examine the association between various adulthood occupational physical activities (OPA) and vertebral CSA, and to evaluate the association between OPA intensity and vertebral CSA.

Methods We used the prospective population-based Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966. Our sample consisted of 712 participants with a mean age of 46.8 years. We assessed their engagement in various individual physical work activities at the ages of 31 and 46, and created overall OPA categories (high, moderate and low intensity), which we used in the analyses to study their association with vertebral CSA in middle age. Linear regression was used as the statistical method with adjustments for LTPA, vertebral height, body mass index and smoking.

Results A statistically significant association was found between occupational sitting and smaller vertebral CSA in men, but only at the age of 31 (49.2 mm2 smaller among those who sit often vs rarely (95% CI −96.0 to −2.4)). No significant differences were detected between OPA categories and vertebral CSA (p>0.05). Thus, we found no consistent association between OPA and vertebral size among either sex.

Conclusions OPA seems to have very little effect on vertebral size. Our results suggest that the effect of LTPA on vertebral size is different to that of OPA.

  • Lumbar spine
  • Vertebral dimensions
  • Occupational physical activity

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  • Contributors All authors contributed to the study design. PO, JN and JA were involved in the data collection. PO and MP performed the data analyses. PO, MP, LA-M and J-AJ participated in the data interpretation. PO, JN, JA and LA-M provided manuscript text. PO and J-AJ supplied the figures. All authors reviewed the manuscript.

  • Funding NFBC1966 received financial support from the Academy of Finland; University of Oulu (grant number 24000692); Oulu University Hospital (grant number 24301140); the Northern Finland Health Care Foundation; the Duodecim Foundation; the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture (grant number 86/626/2014); and the European Regional Development Fund ERDF (grant number 539/2010 A31592).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval The Ethics Committee of the Northern Ostrobothnia Hospital District approved the research.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.