Aerobic Exercise Increases Tolerance for Pain

Pain is an essential and protective mechanism of the body. Pain threshold is a commonly used term when referring to pain and refers to the amount of stimulus required to elicit pain in an individual. Interestingly, regular exercise has shown to increase the pain threshold in humans, thereby increasing their ability to perform activities for a longer duration and in painful situations. Increased pain threshold helps people to improve their work performance, cope better with pain and decreases the need for medications to alleviate pain.

The pain threshold increases as a result of increased concentration of a substance known as beta-endorphin from the pituitary gland, commonly referred to as the “master gland” of the body.1 These substances increase the maximal work capacity of the muscles.1Furthermore, regular aerobic training exercises cause the pain threshold to increase by elevating one’s mood and self-esteem and decreasing one’s level of depression.. Changes in the perception of pain and positive moods enable an individual to perform better. Aerobic exercise has been reported to improve a person’s mood and decrease the perception of pain. It is also effective in relieving depression.2

A study at the University of Wollongong, Australia concluded that aerobic training increased pain tolerance. It was also noted that regular aerobic exercises improved vigor while decreasing fatigue, tension and depression.3


  1. Schwarz L, Kindermann W. Changes in Beta-endorphin Levels in Response to Aerobic and Anaerobic Exercise. Sports Med. 1992; 13(1): 25–36.
  2. Hoffman MD, Hoffman DR. Does Aerobic Exercise Improve Pain Perception and Mood? A review of the Evidence Related to Healthy and Chronic Pain Subjects. Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2007; 11(2): 93–97.
  3. Anshel MH, Russell KG. Effect of Aerobic and Strength Training on Pain Tolerance, Pain Appraisal and Mood of Unfit Males as a Function of Pain Location. J Sports Sci. 1994; 12(6): 535–547.

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