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Aerobic Training Increases Pain Tolerance in Healthy Individuals


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: August 2014 - Volume 46 - Issue 8 - p 1640–1647
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000273
Applied Sciences

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.

1School of Medical Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, AUSTRALIA; and 2Neuroscience Research Australia, Sydney, AUSTRALIA

Address for correspondence: Matthew D. Jones, BExPhys, MSc, School of Medical Sciences, University of New South Wales, Kensington 2052; E-mail:

Submitted for publication July 2013.

Accepted for publication January 2014.

© 2014 American College of Sports Medicine