Memory of Pain Induced by Physical Exercise

Memory. 2016;24(4):548-59. doi: 10.1080/09658211.2015.1023809. Epub 2015 Mar 25.


The aim of this study was to assess the memory of pain induced by running a marathon and the factors that influence it. Sixty-two marathon runners participated in the study, which comprised two phases. Immediately after a participant had reached the finishing line of the marathon, they were asked to rate the intensity and the unpleasantness of their pain and the emotions they felt at that time. Either three or six months later they were asked again to rate the intensity and the unpleasantness of the same pain experience. Regardless of the length of recall delay, participants underestimated both recalled pain intensity and unpleasantness. The pain and negative affect reported at the time of the pain experience accounted for 24% of the total variance in predicting recalled pain intensity and 22% of the total variance in predicting recalled pain unpleasantness. Positive affect at the time of pain experience was not a significant predictor of both the recalled pain intensity and pain unpleasantness. It is concluded that pain induced by physical exercise is not remembered accurately and the pain and negative affect experienced influence recall. Further research is needed on the influence of positive affect on the memory of pain.

Keywords: Athletes; Marathon; Negative affect; Pain intensity; Pain unpleasantness.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Athletes / psychology*
  • Emotions
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology
  • Mental Recall* / physiology
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Running