Physical Activity Helps Older Adults Reduce Their Risk of Chronic Pain

Those living with chronic painknow how debilitating it can be just toperform the most mundane, day-to-day tasks. According to WebMD, around 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, many of which also have to deal with addedemotional distress that stemsfrom thephysical symptoms.

While treatment for chronic pain certainly variesfrom person to person, a recent study suggests that older adults who are more physically active can prevent their risk of developing chronic pain. It turns out that physical activity may alter pain modulation patternsin a way that positively impacts pain responses.

In this small study, 51 older adults ages 60 to 77 wore activity monitorsfor a period of one week to track their daily activity. Two pain modulation tests were conducted to determine how the central nervous system interprets and perceives pain.

The researchers found from the results of both tests that there were significant links between participants’ pain levels andtheir daily physical activity levels. Those who kept up a moderate- to vigorous-intensity level of daily activity experienced less pain compared to those who were sedentary.

Even a little light activity was shown tohelp. Those who made at least a small effort to get a bit ofactivity into their day so that they weren’t totally sedentary showed improvements in pain perception.

Since older adults are more likely to be less active, they may be more vulnerable to suffering from chronic pain. These findings offer just one more reason to make physical activity a lifelong habit rather than a short-term means to an end (such as for weight loss).

If you’re a chronic pain sufferer, it’s important to speak to your doctor first about what types of physical activity and appropriate intensity levels may be appropriate for your lifestyle. Physical activities you might consider to help manage chronic pain include:

  • Walking. Walking is good for both the mind and body. Previous research has also shown that it can improve overall pain management and related limitations among older adults with chronic pain.
  • Yoga. Yoga can be modified for people of all fitness levels. There’s also some evidence that it may help alleviate chronic back pain.
  • Swimming. Swimming is gentle on the muscles and joints, making it a great low-impact form of physical activity. Some animal studies have shown that swimming can help with chronic pain.

If you’re healthy and get the A-OK from your doctor, stepping up the intensity of your activity from low to moderate or vigorous will offer the greatest benefits, as suggested by this study. Strength training, high-intensity interval training, jogging, running and other more intense forms of exercise might just help seriously protect you from chronic pain in the long run.

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Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Fatmat Folarin
Fatmat Folarin10 months ago

Very good article.

Fagone S
Fagone S10 months ago

Walking is good for both the mind and body -

Margie F10 months ago

Very good for anyone, even if it just walking.

heather g
heather g10 months ago

I truly enjoy my exercise classes and feel stiff if I don't keep moving....

Debbi -
Debbi -10 months ago

Move it or lose it becomes more important as we age, and not only in a sexual context.

Ron B
Ron B10 months ago

I believe it. Whenever I wind up with a sore back, walking and exercising the muscles in that area usually makes the pain go away. Sitting or even lying down can actually make it worse sometimes if anything.

Telica R
Telica R10 months ago

Thanks for sharing

william Miller
william Miller10 months ago


Mona M
Mona M10 months ago

Thanks for inspiring elderly people a continuous active life. We all know that becoming passive or inactive leads to a dull state of mind/body.

Christine D
Christine D10 months ago

So true. I make it a point to exercise daily but sometimes in bad weather, all I can manage is a short walk outside in addition to my morning routine. I will be glad when winter is over so I can go for long hikes again and our community pool opens up.