The No Pain No Gain deception

Posted on: 8th May, 2018

Category: Health & Lifestyle

Contributor: West Cork People

By Eoin Roe

No doubt you have heard the mini-proverb ‘No Pain No Gain’, which implies that you must suffer to achieve a goal. The origin of ‘No Pain No Gain’ actually comes from around 1600s and was really related to economics, here it is mentioned in a poem from 1648 by Robert Herrick:

“If little labour, little are our gains; Man’s fortunes are according to his pains.”

In the modern world it is most often used in the health and fitness industry and implies that you won’t get any benefit from a workout unless what you are doing hurts. On of the reasons this came to prominence in the health and fitness industry is due to Jane Fonda’s work out videos in the 80s.

In terms of health No Pain No Gain is completely WRONG.

That may seem like a bold statement but I believe it is wrong and not just for professional athletes but everyone else as well.  There may be situations where pushing a person to the limits may be warranted such as those in the military or in very combative sports, but this is really from a mental toughness point of view. If people are trained continuously this way, without adequate rest it leads to burn out and injury.

Pain is your body’s way of letting you know that you are damaging it and is never a good idea.  When you are younger you may be able to get away with it, as the bodies capacity to heal is truly incredible. Even if you hurt yourself you recover so fast that you don’t feel like it sets you back. I would argue it is still not a good idea to be routinely in pain and should not be encouraged. Pain is more noticeable as you age, the capacity to heal as quickly and the elasticity of your tissues all diminish.

What I would like to concentrate on is from the point of an ordinary person who just wants to feel healthy and do the right thing in terms of their long-term health. You will notice that I have used the word health and not fitness and there is a reason for that.  Fitness and Health are not interchangeable terms – it is possible to be fit and not healthy at the same time.

The sort of fitness that we all need that gives us all the benefits to our cardiovascular health, brain health and another other lifestyle related illness is AEROBIC fitness.  This sort of fitness gives us stamina and is the foundation for all activity. The great thing is that it is pretty easy to improve your aerobic fitness level, safely and enjoyably.  The best form of exercise for developing your aerobic fitness is walking, and this is true for ordinary people and those who are already training in other ways.

In order to train your aerobic fitness the most efficient way is to use a heart rate monitor and train below but as close to your maximum aerobic heart rate (MAR).  Your MAR depends on age and your health level at present but the basic formula is:

180 – (your age) = Maximum Aerobic Heart rate in BPM (beats per minute) *

Once you exercise above this heart rate you are no longer training your aerobic capacity you are training your anaerobic capacity and this does not give you the same long-term health benefits (Maffetone, 1999).  If you are recovering from an illness, operation or injury please see the note below.

If you are like me and would rather not use a heart rate monitor then the simple solution is to start walking. For most people this will always keep them below their MAR and therefore developing their aerobic fitness. You should aim to be walking for 40-60 minutes per day.

So whether you are already training or just starting out on improving your health I would urge to start walking it is incredibly good for your health and is very unlikely to cause you an injury.

Eoin Roe is a Chiropractor and Afferent Input specialist working in Skibbereen, Douglas and Kinsale. Please call 087 9582362 for an appointment.  You can find him on FaceBook @EoinRoeChiropractic – & would love to hear you comments on articles or post and what health issues you would like to hear about.

*If you have had a serious illness or are recovering from injury or an operation you should adapt your MAR lower – If you would like to know more please send me an email to

Maffetone P (1999) The Maffetone Method, The Holistic, No Stress, Low Pain way to Exceptional Fitness.


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