Why does exercise hurt if it's good for you?


** What is the evolutionary benefit of causing discomfort when the body is strengthening?**


The body strengthen during rest not during the exercise. The exercise provides the stimulus.

Anaerobic exercise, for the most part, does not improve overall fitness. It’s far too hard and short term for that.

When man lived by running down prey, it was necessary to not go too hard as that severely limits the distance possible.

The burning from lactic acid serves as a warning that the effort has reached a level that cannot be sustained for long.
In the same way, the increasing fatigue/discomfort when weight training tells you the muscles are reaching their limit and that bar is about to crash down on your neck(or lose your grip on the tree branch).

One of the hardest things about foot races is overcoming that urge to slow down when the lactic acid starts building up.

It is painful if you stress the skin organ or the hair. Don’t you feel pain if someone pulls your hair out or cut your skin?

Examples of things that feel good but are bad for you? Heroin. Sitting on the couch all day eating candy.

If it’s your muscles or your lungs that are burning, it’s okay. If it’s a ligament or tendon with the pain, that’s not. It’s pretty easy to tell the difference. FWIW, most newbies push themselves too hard in the beginning and quit. A good program, like C25K will slowly lead you to build up. Most people you see at the gym are working out incorrectly, especially on cardio machines. They simply aren’t getting their heart rates up enough to actually increase bloodflow/lose calories/see any benefits.

I didn’t work out for 3-4 years in college. When I got back to the gym (a group lifting class, spinning) , my legs hurt so badly that I couldn’t sit unassisted for weeks. As in, I could walk up to a chair and sit down without using my hands to lower myself into it. Just painful muscles tis all.

Things that are good for you but not always pain-free (doesn’t have to mean a lot of pain, or even physical pain):

  • Exercise!
  • Eating that nice salad you brought for lunch instead of making a beeline for the fast-food place down the street.
  • Getting off the couch and making yourself go to that school dance, that club meeting, the gym (it’s so much easier to just bag it and veg at home, if you’re tired/shy/it’s bad weather).
  • Not even going near the shoe department during The Big Shoe Sale because you already have 50 pairs and you have just enough money to make your rent.

Things that are bad for you that feel good: The possibilities are endless! Heroin, tequila, cigarettes, drag racing, eating that whole chocolate bar when you know it’s going to bring on a monster migraine headache, breaking into your ex’s and vandalizing his apartment…endless!

Or, they trotted after the antelope until its stamina ran out, then suddenly moved in for the kill. You must have seen those wildlife documentaries in which wolf packs hunt large prey such as bison. They don’t kill them with speed, they kill them with endurance, and I have a feeling that proto-humans operated like that too. No prolonged periods of fast running. Walk the legs off the bastards, then kill them.


Endurance is the key. But if you think you’re going to walk an antelope to exhaustion, you’re mistaken. Our ancestors ran, for long periods of time. What they didn’t do is sprint down prey, like a cheetah. Slow and steady wins the race, but you still have to run.

There are two kinds of stresses: eustress and distress. Your body needs stress to get stronger and better. Even to exist, you need some stress. But you must be able to adapt to the stress. If you don’t allow the body to adapt, you’ll be in distress. So, you have to stress yourself and then give your body time to adapt.

Exercise involves two kinds of pain: the pain from the build up of lactic acid and other physiological phenomena during the exercise and the pain after an exercise due to microscopic muscle tears. When I do weights, I do two sets of 12 reps for the upper body and two sets of 15 reps for the lower body and core muscles. I do them slowly, with a rest of two seconds between the eccentric and concentric portions and 30 seconds between sets. I really feel the burn towards the end of each set. It is not exactly pain. It’s a burning sensation which makes me feel like “biting the bullet.” If I did them faster, I could do them without the burn, but I don’t think that is as beneficial. I see people arching their backs, exerting all their might, and lifting themselves off the chair in order to impress someone with their ability to do so much weight. But that’s not the correct way.

After you exercise more than you are accustomed to, you will feel soreness the next day. That’s due to minuscule tears of muscles. You should then rest until the pain is gone. These are examples of eustress. If you exercise again before the soreness is gone, you may encounter distress (the failure to adapt).

To get cardiovascular benefits, you have to get your heart rate up. This means doing more than walking, which only mildly elevates your pulse. You should get your heart rate up to at least 70% of maximum for at least 20-30 minutes. The usual way to compute your maximum HR is 220 minus your age, but for a fit individual, that doesn’t work. For example, I’m 73, but can get my HR up into the 160s on a treadmill. Weight lifting also elevates your HR, but not to the extent of running. If you have never run before, I recommend going out, run until you feel tired, and when sufficiently recovered, run again for a total of 20 minutes. But don’t run fast at first. Many people give up running because they go out and run as hard as they can. They cannot run very far then and it is not fun. So, they give up. After you are able to do the whole 20 minutes at a slow run, then you can think of either increasing the time or pace.

But, as DrCube said, running isn’t for everybody. Many sports, such as basketball, tennis, football, rugby, and other forms of exercise, such as swimming and biking, also give you benefits. I can play tennis for a lot longer than I can run because I enjoy it more; also there are rest breaks in most sports that you don’t have when you go for a run. In some ways, tennis is better for you than running because it involves lateral movements, arm motions, and more core involvement. Cross country skiing is supposed to be the best exercise.