In a recent Australian study, advice such as you received was offered to one group. A second group was given the same advice along with a six-week program of exercise. The exercises included aerobics, flexibility stretches, and strength training.
Patients in both groups reported improvements in pain and disability. The exercise group had the best results. And it seems that people with the most severe pain got the most help.
Some patients in both groups did seek out other treatment. Magnetic therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture, and massage were the most common additional treatments received.
Even with all the extra treatment, results were about the same. Small gains were made and kept for up to a year. Exercise isn't a miracle cure, but it can be a helpful tool for many people.