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Is walking good for preventing osteoporosis in the spine?


2 Star

Is walking good for preventing osteoporosis in the spine?

Our Review Summary

Claims made in a newspaper Q&A column deserve the same scrutiny as those appearing in news stories.  

Bone loss and fragility fractures are important, and some preventive measures are straightforward (weight bearing exercise being one of them).  The column did a good job of including comments from two sources about the importance of exercise.

This column could have really helped readers understand what is and is not known about the extent to which walking affects bone quality in the spine.  Instead, the column jumped around, discussing other forms of exercise such as weight lifting and other resistance training as benefitting the lower back in particular and then the use of free weights to focus on the spine at chest level.  How do these activities compare with walking for benefitting the spine?  Without information about the extent to which any of these activities benefit the bones in the spine, the reader cannot make an informed choice.

The column also didn’t adequately discuss risk, or other preventive measures (not smoking, calcium and vitamin D). The column could have remained brief but would have been much more informative with these minor changes.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

not applicable in this case

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

It is not clear from this piece the extent to which bones are strengthened or their quality improved by walking.  Is there a minimum distance or time that must be covered to obtain benefit? 

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story does note that that fractures can occur as a result of weight lifting.  But the focus of the column was on walking, and it didn’t discuss the possibility of falling during walking and the importance of good footwear and a clear walking area. 

It also concludes with the following statement: ‘Not exercising also puts you at risk’   This raises questions such as – at risk of what, and how great a chance is there of that happening, and to what extent it that chance diminished by exercising? 


Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not explain the nature of the evidence supporting the contention by the clinicians interviewed that walking is ‘good for bone quality’.  What types of studies have been done to show that this is the case?

We anticipate that the newspaper would respond by saying, "Come on, this is just a Q&A column."  But we believe that health care consumers need to start scrutinizing the evidence behind claims made about health and health care.  

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Not Satisfactory

The entire paragraph indicating the number of people with osteoporosis and in addition, the number at risk because they have low bone density is an example of disease mongering.  

Osteoporosis and its precursor, osteopenia are both asymptomatic and not a disease, per se. The issue is rather fragility fractures, which are a major cause of morbidity and mortality among the elderly.  However the story did not even mention the role of age in the picture. 

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?


Quotes from two clinicians with an expertise in exercise and bone health were included in this piece.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

Although mentioning several other forms of exercise or activity that may improve bone quality, the story failed to mention diet, lifestyle habits, or medications that may help prevent bone loss and fracture.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Applicable

not applicable in this case

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?


Does not seem to rely on a press release.

Total Score: 2 of 7 Satisfactory


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