People who exercise regularly have been reported to experience 25% less muscle and joint pain in their old age than people who are less active. Furthermore, the study has also revealed that people who regularly participate in brisk aerobic exercise, such as running, experience less pain than non-runners even though they are more likely to suffer from pain from injuries.
The study involved comparison of the level of pain in a group of runners and a group of community-based individuals who acted as controls. A total of 866 subjects were studied and were on average in their mid-sixties when the study started. A follow up of these subjects was done for 14 years and questionnaires were filled up at the end of each year, covering aspects about health status, exercise habits and history of injuries.
The results showed that the greater majority of physically active participants did, on average, between 355 and 2,119 minutes of exercise per week over the course of the study, while controls exercised significantly less.
After adjustment for confounding factors such as gender, age, weight and health status, the pain was only found to increase in both the groups evaluated. But physically active participants were found to experience 25% less musculoskeletal pain than controls. Surprisingly, the reduction was found to be persistent over the entire study period.
Exercise was associated with a substantial and significant reduction in pain even despite the incidence of more injuries and fractures in the runners group. More research might be needed to investigate the mechanisms that might underlie the effect of exercise on musculoskeletal pain in old age.