Aerobic training increases pain tolerance in healthy individuals

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2014 Aug;46(8):1640-7. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000273.


The hypoalgesic effects of acute exercise are well documented. However, the effect of chronic exercise training on pain sensitivity is largely unknown.

Purpose: To examine the effect of aerobic exercise training on pain sensitivity in healthy individuals.

Methods: Pressure pain threshold, ischemic pain tolerance and pain ratings during ischemia were assessed in 24 participants before and after 6 wk of structured aerobic exercise training (n = 12) or after 6 wk of usual physical activity (n = 12). The exercise training regimen consisted of cycling three times per week for 30 min at 75% of maximal oxygen consumption reserve.

Results: Significant increases in aerobic fitness (P = 0.004) and ischemic pain tolerance (P = 0.036) were seen in the exercise group after training, whereas pressure pain threshold and pain ratings during ischemia were unchanged (P > 0.2). No change in aerobic fitness (P > 0.1) or pain sensitivity (P > 0.1) was observed in the control group.

Conclusion: Moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise training increases ischemic pain tolerance in healthy individuals.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology
  • Bicycling / physiology
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Ischemia
  • Male
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pain Threshold / physiology*
  • Perception
  • Physical Education and Training*
  • Physical Exertion
  • Pressure
  • Young Adult