Study Suggests Increasing Your Exercise to Prevent Age-Related Pain

July 20, 2022

Aging increases the likelihood of experiencing pain, particularly chronic musculoskeletal pain that impacts joints and muscles. A recent study published in the journal PLoS ONE suggests that increasing your amount of activity is one method to boost your preventative efforts.

About the Study

More than 5,800 adults over 50 who participated in a significant, extensive, and ongoing study on aging in Hong Kong were examined by researchers. Over a 10-year period, participants submitted data on their levels of physical activity as well as if they had experienced any type of chronic pain, with around half of them reporting this type of problem. The activity was divided into four categories. These groups comprised:

  • Sedentary, or no activity
  • Mild, such as housework
  • Moderate, like walking, stretching, and gardening
  • Vigorous, such as running, biking, swimming, and playing tennis

The only degree of physical activity that was linked to a lower risk of musculoskeletal pain compared to a sedentary lifestyle, which was linked to a higher likelihood of chronic pain, was the highest level of physical activity.

Consistency Is Key

Another crucial conclusion is that irregularly engaging in strenuous activities did not aid with pain relief. The study found that participants who engaged in this form of exercise at least once a week—and ideally several times a week—were the least likely to experience musculoskeletal pain during the course of the 10-year trial. This held true even when age, weight, and gender were taken into account. Several factors may be responsible for the substantial association between greater physical activity and decreased pain occurrence. High levels of physical activity, for instance, may enhance health, reduce weight gain, and promote improved muscular function. Additionally, it may result in increased bone density and a decreased incidence of injuries, notably falls. Increased physical exercise can have an impact on mood and stress levels as well.

Even mild or moderate activity reduced pain risk when compared to inactivity, he adds, even if vigorous activity was the main factor in these advantages. A study published in the journal Pain found that people with musculoskeletal conditions like knee osteoarthritis who tend to focus on their pain the most end up engaging in more sedentary behavior. Previous research also demonstrates a strong relationship between sedentary behavior and chronic pain in older adults, in a bidirectional relationship—having pain can lead to lower activity levels, which then worsen pain. Their ability to manage pain, physical function, and general health may suffer as a result of this choice.

Never Too Late

It's not too late to start reaping the benefits whether you've reached middle age or are older and haven't established a regular fitness program. For instance, a study in the Journal of Clinical Medicine indicated that older women's rates of muscle mass were maintained with activity, even when participants only began working out in middle age. Maintaining muscle mass also frequently entails additional effort. Similar to this most recent study, a 2011 study emphasized the necessity of intense exercise in order to lessen or eliminate musculoskeletal discomfort. For instance, studies discovered that older folks frequently need to lift more weight than younger adults in order to maintain their muscle mass and size.

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