This is the first time we've been able to document this kind of enhancement associated with exercise.
The relaxation procedure helped both groups cope with pain. Additionally, our tests showed both groups had higher physical pain thresholds after the relaxation session. But the obese participants still had a lower threshold for tolerating the pain.
This kind of evaluation is in some ways a more objective way of measuring the body's response to pain, as opposed to simply asking someone if they feel pain.
Some studies say that obese people are more tolerant of pain, while other studies say they are less tolerant.
I think the most important point of this preliminary study is that obese individuals may have a lower threshold for pain possibly due to chronic inflammation associated with obesity, which is not evident if we rely solely on self-report of pain.
For subjective indicators of pain, obese people indicated similar levels of pain to non-obese people. But when we looked at objective indicators, we found that the obese group had a lower threshold for pain.
The relaxation procedure helped both groups cope with pain.
Our findings show the importance of looking at objective as well as subjective measurements of how the body responds to pain stimuli.
This is important because if an obese person begins an exercise program, he may not cognitively experience pain when in fact it is hurting the body on some level. That could lead to severe pain down the road.