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No Pain, No Gain?

No Pain, No Gain?

Q: When it comes to exercise, do you believe in the old adage “no pain, no gain”?

A: This really depends on your definition of “pain.” I get up every morning at 5:30 to go to the gym. Sometimes this is “painful,” but I do it anyway because I know how important exercise is to health, and I know that once you start making excuses to skip a day, it can become a slippery slope.

If your definition of “pain” is liberal enough to include discomfort, this can also be a problem. Increasing the incline or the speed while you are running on a treadmill for 30 minutes or going up a notch on the amount of weights you are using is going to be uncomfortable, but challenging the muscles and the cardiovascular system is ultimately what leads to improvement.

All that being said, you have to know your limits. No one is going to continue an exercise regimen if the day-after muscle pain prevents them from going about their normal daily routine. Find a workout program that challenges you but that also works for your lifestyle.

Dr. Brent Ridge is the health expert for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. You can call and ask him a question live every Tuesday at 2 p.m. Eastern on Sirius Satellite Radio, Channel 112 (1.866.675.6675). You can also follow along as he learns to grow his own food and raise goats on his farm in upstate New York by visiting

Got a health question for Dr. Brent? E-mail him at

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Dr. Brent

As an undergraduate, Dr. Brent Ridge majored in public health and environmental science, studying the way the state of the natural environment impacts our health choices. As a physician, he specializes in the field of aging. Send your health questions to Dr. Brent at


+ add your own
8:54AM PST on Nov 17, 2012

Thank you for sharing.

1:38AM PDT on Oct 7, 2011

Thank you

6:14AM PDT on Jul 11, 2011


12:37AM PDT on May 6, 2011

Thanks. Pain doesn't always necesarily mean meaningful gain. Sometimes it can be just downright dangerous and unnecessary.

2:17AM PDT on Jun 15, 2009



6:00AM PDT on Mar 31, 2009

I have been on a regular workout program for so many years I can't remember. I look forward to it most days. I gradually increase my workouts or try and change what I do. Running on a treadmill compared to running outside is a totally different workout. Free wieght vs. weight machines. Totally different. I think workouts should be changed to fool the body into strength.
I like having sore muscles! It means you did something to grow them. Pain on the other hand is totally different. I remeber I hurt my foot really bad two days after a mile race I was in. I really pushed it, and payed for it! Thats why I think gradual increses are better. Moving is learning.

11:44PM PDT on Mar 30, 2009

Depends on the level of pain.Don't set an unreasonable goal for yourself though.Do what you know you can do then reach for the sky.But don't expect to lose 50 lbs in a week.If you set your goal too high,you'll be prone to want to give up.Just like refusing to eat a candy bar for a year.If it's hard for those of you with sweet tooths,just limit yourself.If you deprive yourself of the things you want too often,you'll most likely give up on the diet/execrise gig and pig out.Also,allow yourself one or two things each day that you're not "supposed" to have so you're not easily tempted to quit and go overboard.Just give it the best you can and don't give up!

1:28PM PST on Nov 4, 2008

i have severe copd (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and can only do so much without recovering my breath...but the workout has really helped me and i see improvements by the week...but sometimes you just cant go in and rambo on the machines like you would want to!!!

9:05AM PST on Nov 4, 2008

I'm a big believer that there are great benefits to pushing past your comfort zone (at the gym, as well as the rest of life). That’s how we grow.

I'm constantly amazed at the number of people I see at the gym on the treadmill who never break a sweat while working out. I'd be surprised if all these folks have medical conditions preventing them from turning it up a notch, yet I can't believe they're getting their heart rate up much beyond what it's like at the office. It’s none of my business, but honestly I find it frustrating they’re wasting such an opportunity to help themselves.

My philosophy: be where you are, and make the most of it. So, maybe using more of your language, I’d say “no discomfort, no gain” :)

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