Regular Exercise Fights Pain in Elderly

Older People Who Exercise Experience Less Joint and Muscle Pain

Medically Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on September 19, 2005
From the WebMD Archives

Sept. 19, 2005 -- Older people who exercise regularly experience fewer aches and pains than other people their age who are less active.

Researchers found elderly people who engaged in brisk aerobic exercise, like running, had 25% less joint and muscle pain even though they were more likely to suffer painful injuries.

The results appear in the current issue of Arthritis Research & Therapy.

Easing Pain With Exercise

The study followed a group of running club members and a similar group of nonrunners in their mid-60s for 14 years. Each year, the participants completed a survey about their overall health, pain levels, injuries, and exercise habits.

The results showed the running club members logged an average of 314 minutes of exercise per week compared with an average of 123 minutes of regular aerobic exercise among the comparison group.

Overall pain increased in both groups during the course of the study, but regular exercise was associated with a significant reduction in pain over the long term. However, runners had a slightly higher percentage of broken bones reported during the study.

Researchers found joint and muscle pain were about 25% lower among the regular exercisers compared with their more sedentary counterparts.

Researchers say this reduction in pain persisted over the average ages of 62 to 76 after adjusting for age, sex, and BMI (body mass index, a measure of weight in relation to height used to indicate obesity).

Exercise: Your Joints Will Thank You

Exercise is also very beneficial for people who already have arthritis. A program that includes a balance of three types of exercises -- range-of-motionrange-of-motion, strengtheningstrengthening, and enduranceendurance -- can relieve the symptoms of arthritis and protect joints from further damage. Exercise also:

  • Helps maintain normal joint movement
  • Increases muscle flexibility and strength
  • Helps maintain weight to reduce pressure on joints
  • Helps keep bone and cartilage tissue strong and healthy
  • Improves endurance and cardiovascular fitness