Relations of sit-up and sit-and-reach tests to low back pain in adults

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 1998 Jan;27(1):22-6. doi: 10.2519/jospt.1998.27.1.22.


The sit-up and sit-and-reach tests are found on nearly all youth and adult fitness tests because of the perceived relation between performance on these tests and low back pain. However, this relationship has not been well validated. Therefore, the purpose of the study was to examine the relationship between performance on these two common field tests of muscular strength and flexibility (the sit-up and the sit-and-reach tests) and self-reported low back pain (LBP). The sample included 2,747 adults with a mean age of 44.6 +/- 9.8 years. The 1-minute sit-up (mean = 30.9 +/- 10.6) and sit-and-reach tests (mean = 39.88 +/- 10.49 cm) were administered to participants as part of a voluntary clinical health and fitness evaluation between 1980 and 1990. Participants completed a mail-back survey in 1990 on musculoskeletal health problems. Low back pain was quantified by developing on ordinal variable from questionnaire responses which represented a range of severity of LBP from none (0) to LBP which required medical care (3). With an average of 6.1 (+/- 2.0) years of follow-up, LBP was reported by 54% of the study participants (men = 45%, women = 54%). Pearson correlations between sit-up (r = .002; p = .94), sit-and-reach (r = -.043; p = .03), and LBP indicated poor LBP criterion-related validity from the sit-up and sit-and-reach tests. Partial correlations, where age, gender, percent of body fat, and time between testing and survey response were controlled, displayed no increase in the relationship. This study does not support the validity of sit-up and sit-and-reach test items for health-related fitness batteries because they were unrelated to LBP.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain* / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology
  • Physical Endurance
  • Physical Fitness*
  • Predictive Value of Tests