Exercise May Ease Pain in Seniors

Published Online: Thursday, December 1, 2005

The results of a new study suggest that running and other forms of vigorous exercise may help prevent some of the aches and pains that come with getting older. Researchers have found that, among ~900 adults aged 50 and over, those who exercised regularly were less likely to experience painful muscles and joints over the following 14 years. Throughout the study period, adults who were more active showed pain-rating scores that were consistently 25% lower than the scores of those who were not as active.

In fact, the more sedentary seniors had a higher rate of arthritis, according to lead study author Bonnie Bruce, DrPH, MPH, RD, of Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. She stated that it is possible that the lower risk of pain experienced by active adults reflects their greater "musculoskeletal reserve" or the effects of endorphins?natural pain-killing chemicals released by the brain during exercise. The results were published in Arthritis Research & Therapy (September 19, 2005).

The study involved 866 healthy seniors, more than half of whom were members of a runners' club. At the beginning of the study and every year following, participants reported how much time they spent per week engaged in vigorous exercise. They also used a pain-rating scale to describe any pain or stiffness they experienced during that time. Even after factoring in weight and other physical differences, the findings showed that the more active adults reported less pain over the course of the study.

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