Exercise and Pain
Regular exercise may boost pain tolerance — a new finding that may have implications for those experiencing chronic pain, new research suggests. (PLOS One. Published online May 24, 2023. Full text)
In a large observational study of more than 10,000 adults, researchers found those who consistently engage in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity over the 7- to 8-year study period reported the highest pain tolerance. However, the results also showed that even light exercise was associated with greater pain tolerance.
Pain tolerance was measured using the cold-pressor test (CPT), in which participants submerge their hand in icy water for as long as possible.
CPT tolerance was 7%, 14%, and 16% higher respectively for light, moderate, and vigorous consistent exercise across the two surveys vs the sedentary group.
There was no significant difference in pain tolerance between men and women and all participants experienced a decline in tolerance over time.
The findings demonstrate an association between exercise and pain tolerance.