Physical activity´s well known health benefits include a reduced risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and improved mental health. What is less well known is that greater levels of physical activity and exercise are also associated with a lower risk of developing chronic pain. Chronic pain is defined as pain on a daily basis for 12 weeks. It is a significant health issue affecting between 12-30% Europeans.

The cost to the economy is enormous in terms of healthcare costs and lost productivity (2.2% of GDP in Germany, 2.8% in Ireland and 1.7% in the Netherlands).

Thus, our president Bart Morlion has launched the idea of a presidential campaign, that will run across the three-year mandate of each President. The theme for 2017-2020 is ‘EFIC On the Move’ focusing on the importance of physical activity in preventing primary and secondary pain.

Factsheet: EFIC On the move at a glance


All healthcare professionals should advise patients on the importance of physical activity and the role that  physical activity plays in the prevention of chronic pain. This requires knowledge, motivation, empowerment (using language that patients understand), a physical environment that facilitates change and a plan that helps them to persevere.



Physical activity and pain : few facts

Physical activity:

  • Reduces a person’s chance of developing low back pain by 40%.
  • Reduces a person’s chance of developing osteoarthritis by 50% (e.g. hip and knees).
  • Increased frequency, duration, and intensity of exercise are associated with less chronic pain when age,education, and smoking are taken into account.
  • Reduces the chance amongst 20-64 year olds of developing chronic pain by 10-12% compared with those
    who don’t exercise.
  • In older women it reduces the chance of developing chronic pain by 21–38% compared with those who are
    not exercising.
  • Older people who exercise more regularly, for longer and at a higher intensity are less likely to develop
    chronic pain.
  • People in working age who exercise 3-5 times a week are also less likely to develop chronic pain.