Sports give you higher pain tolerance

  • Research conducted in Norway has linked the physical state generated by sports activity to the ability to endure pain.
  • The more physical activity the subjects engage in, the greater their pain tolerance.
  • Increasing the physical activity load over time leads to an elevation of the soglia of pain tolerance, indicating a direct correlation between physical activity and the ability to resist pain.


The result of a Norwegian research conducted on 10,000 individuals provides for the first time a novel reading of the benefits of sports activity. The scientists who conducted the so-called Tromso study-which involved such a large number of adults of both sexes at two different times-have for the first time linked the physical state generated by sports to the threshold of pain tolerance. Concluding that those who are fit have also a superior ability to resist pain.

The research

As The Independent reports, the study involved subjects first from 2007 to 2008 and finally from 2015 to 2016, allowing for significant data collection not only in terms of numbers but also in terms of time.

What did they find out? That the more physical activity the subjects engaged in, the greater their pain tolerance.

You may be wondering how they were able to figure out how much the candidates could withstand pain, and the answer, not so surprisingly, is that exposure to painful practices involved only dipping a hand into a container containing ice. Which we know is not a particularly pleasant experience.

Another result also concerned the tolerance threshold, which was found to be higher for subjects who increased their physical activity load between the two survey sessions. As if to say that pain tolerance is not only related to the sport practiced but is also directly proportional to it, that is, it increases as the time devoted to the activity increases.

The study is very comprehensive and important not only because of the large number of the sample but also because of its inhomogeneity, as it included subjects of different ages, habits, and gender.

Why it is important

At this point you may be pleased that you have unknowingly elevated your pain threshold but the truth is that you will wish (and we with you) that you never have to personally put this practice to the test.

Clearly that is not why the study is relevant. Indeed, it is more so for the treatment of chronic pain, for example. In short, those suffering from disabling conditions that worsen over time have a more serene horizon ahead, provided they exercise or at least move, pathology permitting, of course.

The conclusions are of different kinds, summarized effectively and succinctly by the director of the experiment, “The most important take-home message is that any activity is better than being completely sedentary.” And if that sounds like a platitude, think again, because it is not. It has always been said that playing sports is important for the mind and body, but the association with physical pain is certainly more original.

Why this happens has not yet been explained. A scientific research after all is concerned with gathering data to support a thesis, and does not advance any without being able to prove it. Perhaps (we guess) developing resistance to physical exertion translates into a greater ability to endure physical pain. It is, indeed, only a hypothesis.
That, however, would mean that there is a new reason to be physically active: that of better resisting the attacks of disease or aging. To run as long as possible.


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