More exercise could help you deal with pain better.
Even walking four hours a week can improve your pain tolerance, a study shows. Experts hope this could mean you need to take fewer painkillers to deal with everyday health problems like headaches and backaches.
The researchers studied more than 10,700 people who were asked to choose one of four categories for their average level of physical activity over the past year.
If they exercised or participated in athletic competitions several times a week, they could choose the vigorous activity category, or they could choose the moderate activity category if they did things like tennis or heavy gardening for at least four hours a week.
If they walked, cycled, or did similar exercise for at least four hours a week, they chose the light exercise category, and if they engaged in typically sedentary activities, they fell into the sedentary group.
Exercise is known to reduce everyday aches and pains by keeping joints supple. However, the results suggest that fitter people may feel the pain they suffer less intensely
All of these people would dip their hands in cold water for as long as they could stand to test their pain tolerance.
The most active people in the vigorous activity category were able to keep their hand in the water more than 16 seconds longer than people in the sedentary activity group.
But even those in the light activity category were able to endure the pain nearly seven seconds longer than sedentary people.
Exercise is known to reduce everyday aches and pains by keeping joints supple.
However, the results suggest that fitter people may feel the pain they suffer less intensely.
Anders Arnes, who led the study from the University Hospital of Northern Norway, said: “Exercise can have the same effects on the brain as painkillers like morphine, albeit to a far lesser extent.”
“Our results suggest that regular physical activity can help improve pain tolerance, just like the so-called ‘runner’s high’ we get after jogging makes pain seem less painful.
“There are studies that suggest people who are more active are less likely to take painkillers, and we wonder if these effects of activity might even make things like childbirth feel a little less painful, although far more research.” would be required to establish this.”
Previous studies have shown that athletes have a higher pain tolerance compared to other people.
The new study involved people aged 30 to 87 who were asked about their physical activity in two surveys, seven and eight years apart.
Among those who participated in both surveys, those who reported at least four hours of moderate or vigorous activity at both time points were able to hold their hand in cold water 20 seconds longer than those who were sedentary.
When the averages of both surveys were taken, people who exercised vigorously could withstand pain 16.3 seconds longer than people who did not exercise, while those who exercised moderately could withstand pain 14.1 seconds longer and people who did light exercise like walking managed 6.7 seconds longer.
The study authors came to these results even when they took into account other factors that could influence pain tolerance, such as age or the state of health of the people.
The authors of the study, published in the journal PLOS One, conclude: “Being or staying physically active for a long time may improve your pain tolerance.”
“Whatever you do, the most important thing is that you do something.”
HOW MUCH EXERCISE YOU NEED
To stay healthy, adults ages 19-64 should try to be active every day and do the following:
at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as bicycling or brisk walking each week and Strength exercises 2 or more days per week that work all major muscles (legs, hips, back, abs, chest, shoulders and arms)
75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, such as running or a game of one-on-one tennis, each week Strength exercises 2 or more days per week that work all major muscles (legs, hips, back, abs, chest, shoulders and arms)
a mix of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity each week – for example 2 x 30 minute jogs plus 30 minutes of brisk walking equals 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity and Strength exercises 2 or more days per week that work all major muscles (legs, hips, back, abs, chest, shoulders and arms)
A good rule of thumb is that 1 minute of vigorous activity yields the same health benefits as 2 minutes of moderate activity.
One way to get the recommended 150 minutes of weekly physical activity is to exercise 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
All adults should also break up prolonged sitting with light activity.