Mohave County
May 2024
Volume 24 Issue 3

Jun 2023 | Health | 0 comments

Increased Physical Activity Linked to Higher Pain Tolerance

Health | 0 comments

June 2023

Recent research demonstrates that physically active individuals exhibit higher pain tolerance than their less active counterparts. Benefits of physical activity, including better mental health, weight management, a stronger immune system, and a longer lifespan, contribute to this phenomenon.

Published in PLOS ONE, the research suggests a direct correlation between levels of physical activity and pain tolerance. Researchers from the Anders Arnes University Hospital of North Norway, Tromso, based this conclusion on data from 10,732 Norwegian adults.

Participants self-reported their physical activity and pain tolerance levels, with the latter measured through a hand immersion in cold water test.

Pain Tolerance and Physical Activity

Dr. Nathan Kadlecek, a physical therapist not involved in the study, explained that the pain tolerance test serves as a proxy for how much discomfort one can withstand. Frequent physical activity puts the body through strenuous situations, potentially increasing pain tolerance over time.

Additionally, physically fit individuals are less likely to experience pain or injuries through physical activities. Endorphins released during exercise may also contribute to increased pain tolerance.

Dr. James Walker, a physician and contracted medical advisor for online pharmacy and well-check service Welzo, who was not part of the study, echoed the potential influence of endorphins. Regular physical activity also improves cardiovascular health, increases blood flow, reduces inflammation, which might contribute to increased pain tolerance.

Importance of Physical Activity

Physical activity brings multiple health benefits:

  • Cardiovascular health: Regular exercise strengthens the heart and improves circulation.
  • Weight control: Physical activity helps burn calories, preventing obesity.
  • Mental health: Exercise can enhance mood, reduce anxiety, improve sleep, and cognitive function.
  • Stronger bones and muscles: Weight-bearing and resistance exercises strengthen bones and muscles.
  • Increased lifespan: Regular physical activity reduces the risk of chronic diseases, extending life expectancy.
  • Boosts immune system: Regular exercise can help boost immunity.

Limitations of the Study

Despite intriguing findings, the study has limitations. Dr. Kadlecek suggested that the method for measuring pain might not be the most accurate. Pain tolerance can vary greatly depending on the task and individual, making the cold water test potentially less representative of daily life pain experiences.

Self-reported levels of physical activity may also be prone to inaccuracies, pointed out Scott McAfee, a physical therapist not involved in the study.

Despite these limitations, the findings underscore the benefits of physical activity on overall health and its potential effect on pain tolerance.

By Kaitlin Vogel on May 24, 2023 — Fact checked by Alexandra Sanfins, Ph.D.

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