There is a lot of research focusing on the minimum amount of exercise needed to know the benefits of exercise. The conclusion is often: A little exercise helps, too. And sometimes even better, when it comes to preventing injuries and stress on the body. But when it comes to preventing bone, joint and muscle pain that often occurs with age, a new study suggests looking for more: longer duration and greater intensity.
Is exercise more healthy?
The researchers looked at just over 5,800 people over their 50s as part of a long-term study of aging in England. Participants provided information about their level of physical activity and whether they had chronic pain over a 10-year period. About half of them indicated that they had gone through this.
According to lead author Nils Georg Niederstrasser, associate professor of psychology at the University of Portsmouth in the UK, only a high level of physical activity has been shown to protect against musculoskeletal pain compared to a sedentary lifestyle.
“Pain is known to become more common as we age, but a solution has proven elusive,” Runner’s World told. “It is important to consider how to reduce the risk, because chronic pain can lead to a lower quality of life.”
Heavier activities, less chronic pain
While all exercises are beneficial, study participants who reported more moderate exercise — such as walking, dancing, stretching, and gardening — did not have the significant levels of pain prevention observed in those who regularly engaged in more vigorous activities such as running, swimming and tennis. Those who saw the least benefit were participants who reported only light activity, such as housework.
“Of course any activity helps people stay healthy and feel better compared to no exercise at all. But when it comes to developing chronic pain, even light exercise doesn’t seem to have any long-term effect.” “Not only does the activity have to be vigorous, but you should do it at least once a week.”
The difference between men and women
This may be especially true for women, he adds. In the study, Niederstrasser says, women were more likely to develop pain as they got older, possibly due to greater hormonal changes and pain sensitivity and intensity. But the long-term effects of vigorous exercise apply to everyone.
Niederstrasser: Physical activity can increase your bone mass, improve your muscle function, reduce stress and improve your mood. Many elderly people reduce exercise because they think it will lead to more pain, but the opposite is true. It is a preventive strategy.
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