Sunday, May 2, 2021

Stationary Cycling Just As Good As Pilates For Chronic Low Back Pain?

The Pilates instructors reading this post along with those of you who do Pilates aren't gonna like me a lot, not with a heading like the one above. But before you get upset, please let me be clear, I have nothing against anyone doing Pilates or any Pilates instructors. I'm just sharing what I read from a published study.

This study compared the effects of specific trunk exercises (or Pilates) versus stationary cycling on subjects with chronic non specific low back pain

One group was randomized to undergo specific trunk exercises (SEG) for 8 weeks while the other group did stationary cycling (CEG). The SEG group performed Pilates with attention to muscle control, posture and breathing. 

THE CEG group were informed that they were performing a style of cycling called Pilates Pedal. This is to reduce bias so that their group will not wonder why their exercise program did not include trunk specific exercises. Look at the diagram below, you will see that the CEG group just did a mixture of mixed resistance cycling and no core exercises.

Pain was reduced in both groups after exercises compared to the start of the study. Even though disability was significantly lower in the SEG group compared to the CEG group after 8 weeks, the overall data pattern suggested no long term differences between both groups 6 months later.

Fear-avoidance beliefs (FAB) or activity avoidance behavior scores were lower in the SEG group at 8 weeks only, the CEG group had lower FAB scores at 6 months.

The authors concluded that an 8-week supervised group of Pilates had only better short term but not long term clinically meaningful improvements compared to stationary bike cycling.  

If a patient with chronic non specific low back pain stick to either Pilates or stationary cycling (or any exercise program  for that matter), similar improvements will be achieved as long as a minimal level of adherence is maintained.

If you look in detail at the baseline scores for pain and disability, you will notice they were mild to moderate. Hence, results from this study may not be transferable to those with severe back pain and disability.

Pilates or stationary bike cycling (or any general exercise), your choice really, as along as you stick to it, will help with your recurrent low back pain. Find exercises you enjoy and keep at it.


Marshall PWM, Kennedy S, Brooks C et al (2013). Pilates Exercise Or Stationary Cycling For Chronic Nonspecific Low Back Pain. Does It Matter? A Randomized Controlled Trial With 6-Month Follow-up. Spine. 38(15): 952-959. DOI: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e318297c1c5.

*thanks to Byron Tan who got me the article. Email me if you like to have a look at the article

1 comment:

  1. Hi Gino, i just read this after your recent Yoga article piece. I do wonder at the conclusions of this study, so would definitely love to read more on this study. Could i get a copy please? Thanks very much!