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Study Shows Athletes Have a Higher Tolerance for Pain

Whether you’re a professional boxer or a professional layabout, pain is a part of life. Chances are, however, that you’re more likely to cry over a titty twister if you sit around on your ass all day than if you’re physically active. According to new research, physically active people have a higher tolerance for pain than couch potatoes. Who would have thought?

Get through that pain

As reported by WebMD Health News, a group of German researchers studied the results of 15 different studies comparing pain threshold and pain tolerance among athletes and non-athletes. Their findings, which appear in the June issue of the journal “Pain,” point to a link between working out and a higher tolerance of pain.

Both athletes and non-athletes have similar pain thresholds, which is the point at which pain is actually felt. Both you and that gold medal-winning, marathon-running friend of yours feel the sensation of a kick to the balls at the same time. What sets him apart from you, however, is his ability to withstand it. Athletes have been confirmed to have a higher pain tolerance, which is the maximum amount of pain one person can stand. While you might cry like a baby after a near flick to the junk, Mr. Iron Man might be able to withstand ten knees to the crotch without budging.

The research team also found that the amount of pain toleration actually varies by sport. Those involved in sports like soccer or football are more tolerant of pain than those that participate in endurance sports like rowing or running. Does it really come as a surprise that a linebacker might be able to tolerate a wicked Indian burn better than some scrawny runner? Cross-country skiers, however, were found to be just as tolerant of pain as football players. This probably helps during avalanches and random yeti attacks.

In case you weren’t aware, physical activity actually boosts endorphin levels in the body. Endorphins are pain-relieving opioids which produce a “feel-good” effect in the body, making things like 26.2-mile runs and scaling mountains seem somehow exhilarating. Unfortunately, sitting in a recliner munching on Cheetos does not achieve this same effect.

Jonas Tesarz, MD, of the University of Heidelberg, believes that “because athletes are highly motivated to keep doing what they do, they may also be far more likely than others to ignore pain signals and play through the pain.” If it’s the bottom of the ninth, bases loaded and you’re up to bat, that day-long headache of yours seems suddenly less excruciating.

If you’re physically active, enjoy your higher tolerance for pain. Don’t go banging your head on the wall or anything, just rest easy knowing your body is better prepared to handle sprains, strains and such. If you haven’t done as much as a sit-up in the last five years, consider higher pain tolerance as one of many reasons to get off your ass and start working out. Because you never know when a buddy of yours is going to knee you in the family jewels.

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About John Brhel John Brhel is a freelance writer from upstate New York that enjoys picking apart life's idiosyncrasies and listening to Huey Lewis & the News.

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