Exercise Improves the Impact of Chronic Pain in Older Adults: Results of an RCT

Mauro Giovanni Carta1, Fernanda Velluzzi2, *, Marco Monticone2, Cesar Ivan Aviles Gonzalez3, Luigi Minerba4, Massimiliano Pau5, Mario Musu4, Laura Atzori4, Caterina Ferreli4, Alberto Cauli6, Sergio Machado7, Elisa Pintus4, Dario Fortin8, Ferdinando Romano9, Maria Pietronilla Penna10, Antonio Preti11, Giulia Cossu4
1 Department of Public Health, University of Cagliari, Clinical and Molecular Medicine, Cagliari, Italy
2 Department of Public Health, University of Cagliari, Cagliari, Italy
3 University of Cagliari, Center for Liaison Psychiatry and Psychosomatics, Cagliari, Italy
4 Department Medical Sciences and Public Health, University of Cagliari, Cagliari, Italy
5 Department of Mechanical, Chemical and Materials Engineering, University of Cagliari, Cagliari, Italy
6 University of Cagliari, Rheumatology Unit, Cagliari, Italy
7 Department of Sports and Method Techniques, Federal University of Santa Maria, Santa Ma, California
8 Department of Psychology and Cognitive Science, University of Trento, Trento, Trento, Italy
9 Department of Public Health and Infectious Diseases, Unitelma Sapienza University, Rome, Italy
10 Department of Education, University of Cagliari, Psychology and Philosophy, Cagliari, Italy
11 Department of Medical Sciences and Public Health, University of Turin, Turin, Italy

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© 2022 Velluzzi et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Public Health, University of Cagliari, Cagliari, Corso Vittorio Emanuele 190, Italy; Tel: +39 333 4808913;



Chronic Pain (CP) is a crucial determinant for disability in older adults. CP amplifies the impact of other common age-related diseases and increases cardiovascular risk. Physical exercise can improve CP. Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs) with high-intensity exercise in older adults excluded people with Moderate Chronic Illness (MCI) and CP.


This study aimed at evaluating in an RCT whether moderate exercise training can improve chronic pain in a sample of older adults, including people with MCI, and if any modification persists over time.


A sample of 120 older adults was randomly selected for a moderate-intensity exercise program or cultural activities (control group). Chronic pain was assessed at t0, at t12 (end of the trial), and t48 weeks, by means of the Italian version of the SIP-Roland Scale.


Seventy-nine participants completed the follow-up (age 72.3±4.7, women 55.3%). At the end of RCT, an improvement in the SIP scale score was found in the exercise group (p=0.035), showing a lower score than the control group; this difference was not maintained at 48 weeks (p=0.235).


Our study highlighted that a moderate-intensity exercise intervention reduced chronic pain in older adults, but this effect disappeared at follow-up after 36 weeks from the end of the training program. These findings suggested that such kinds of programs, easily accessible to old people even with MCI, should be implemented and supported over time, thus promoting active aging and preventing CP of age-related diseases.

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Keywords: Chronic pain, Moderate chronic illness, Survey, Randomized controlled trial, Cerebrovascular, Cardiac, Metabolic disorders.