Regular Physical Activity Tied to Higher Pain Tolerance

Furthermore, pain tolerance increases with higher activity levels, as well as for those who increase their activity over time
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TUESDAY, May 30, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- Being physically active over time is associated with higher pain tolerance compared to being consistently sedentary, according to a study published online May 24 in PLOS ONE.

Anders Pedersen Årnes, from the University Hospital of North Norway in Tromsø, and colleagues used data from 10,732 participants (51 percent women) in the sixth (2007 to 2008) and seventh (2015 to 2016) waves of the Tromsø Study to assess whether habitual leisure-time physical activity level and physical activity change affects pain tolerance longitudinally. Questionnaires were used to ascertain levels of leisure-time physical activity (sedentary, light, moderate, or vigorous) and the cold-pressor test was used to measure experimental pain tolerance.

The researchers found that participants with high consistent physical activity levels over the two surveys had significantly higher pain tolerance than those staying sedentary. Compared to sedentary participants, light, moderate, and vigorous physical activity groups had higher pain tolerance.

"Pain tolerance increased with higher total activity levels, and more for those who increased their activity level during follow-up. This indicates that not only total physical activity amount matters but also the direction of change," the authors write. "Physical activity did not significantly moderate pain tolerance change over time, though estimates suggested a slightly falling effect possibly due to ageing. These results support increased physical activity levels as a possible nonpharmacological pathway towards reducing or preventing chronic pain."

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