OBJECTIVE This study defines the association of preoperative physical activity level with functional outcomes at 3 and 12 months following surgical decompression for lumbar spinal stenosis. METHODS Data were collected as a prospective observational registry at a single institution from 2012 through 2015, and then analyzed with a retrospective cohort design. Patients who were able to participate in activities outside the home preoperatively were compared to patients who did not participate in such activities, with respect to 3-month and 12-month functional outcomes postintervention, adjusted for relevant confounders. RESULTS Ninety-nine patients were included. At baseline, sedentary/inactive patients (n = 55) reported greater back pain, lower quality of life, and higher disability than similarly treated patients who were active preoperatively. Both cohorts experienced significant improvement from baseline in back pain, leg pain, disability, and quality of life at both 3 and 12 months after lumbar decompression surgery. At 3 months postintervention, sedentary/inactive patients reported more leg pain and worse disability than patients who performed activities outside the home preoperatively. However, at 12 months postintervention, there were no statistically significant differences between the two cohorts in back pain, leg pain, quality of life, or disability. Multivariate analysis revealed that sedentary/inactive patients had improved disability and higher quality of life after surgery compared to baseline. Active patients experienced greater overall improvement in disability compared to inactive patients. CONCLUSIONS Sedentary/inactive patients have a more protracted recovery after lumbar decompression surgery for spinal stenosis, but at 12 months postintervention can expect to reach similar long-term outcomes as patients who are active/perform activities outside the home preoperatively.