How exercise can restore your energy and reduce pain

Getting off the couch is tough when your body hurts; in fact, it's probably the last thing you want to do. But, exercise could be the best medicine for you—here's why.

How exercise can restore your energy and reduce pain

Boost your mood

  • When you're in pain, the old advice to climb into bed and rest no longer applies. Why? Researchers now know much more about what exercise does for the body and mind.
  • Does your pain make you grouchy? By exercising for as little as 30 minutes a day, you trigger the flow of feel-good endorphins—the body's natural painkillers that boost mood and lower stress. All that blood and oxygen pumping through your body will begin to make you feel better, happier, and more in control.

Restore your energy

  • Does your pain keep you from doing the kinds of things around the house you used to do? By exercising, you have a much better chance of getting back to that go-getting self you miss.
  • Exercising builds strength, which, in turn, enables your muscles to take more stress off your bones. It also builds flexibility, which eases movement minus the aches and pains.
  • Each time you take a walk to the grocery store, you'll feel more energy, and, at the same time, you'll fall asleep faster at night and stay asleep, which gives you more energy to resume your life. What's more, you may notice that as you're dropping a few pounds, you're also losing some aches and pains.

Reduce your pain

  • Exercise may sound like a drag, but it's worth the effort. A Harvard study of 135 women with chronic pain found that after a 16-week regimen of walking, strength training and stretching three times per week—starting at about 30 minutes and working up to an hour—their pain was reduced by almost half. As a result, they could get back to many of the activities they missed.
  • People with knee arthritis cut their pain by 43 percent after four months of strength training. Researchers at the University of Tallahassee in Florida found that women with fibromyalgia who entered a strength-training program twice a week for sixteen weeks reduced their pain by 39 percent.
  • And, a study at Stanford University of people who did at least six weekly hours of brisk aerobic exercise showed a 25 percent reduction in the aches and pain of aging (compared to a control group).

The takeaway

  • You don't have to be an Olympic athlete, buy new exercise clothes, or even go to a gym. The important thing is simply moving your body regularly by walking or swimming, gardening or dancing—whatever feels most inviting.
  • Getting the right type of exercise at the right intensity can ease your aches, boost your energy, and even prevent future pain.
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