Why does exercise hurt?

Like many other people around the world, we have enjoyed watching TV coverage of some of the sports at the Olympics. But I nearly laughed out loud when my daughter asked quite earnestly, “Mummy, if exercise is supposed to be good for you, why does it hurt?”


Exercise isn’t meant to be painful. It makes us fitter and stronger and helps to keep us healthy. But our muscles can start to feel tired whilst we are exercising and they may even feel sore for a day or so afterwards.

So let’s find out what happens to our bodies when we do exercise!

Doing exercise and keeping fit is part of a healthy lifestyle. The NHS in England has lots of ideas about how to get enough exercise. If you want to find out more, this page is all about exercise for children.

When we exercise, we make our bodies work harder than normal. Our hearts beat faster and harder, we breathe faster and harder, and we use our muscles to move our bodies around. All of this uses energy (which we get from food) and produces heat! This short video explains a bit more about what happens to our bodies when we exercise.

Your breathing and heart rate return to normal quite quickly after exercise, but your muscles might feel sore or tired for quite a bit longer. Some people’s muscles don’t feel sore until the next day. It’s normal to feel a bit sore – it’s just your muscles recovering from all that hard work! The good news is that the more often you exercise, the less it will hurt because your muscles will get stronger and more used to working hard.

But it is important to stop and tell a grown-up if you fall over and hurt yourself or if you feel a really bad pain during sports or exercise because you might have a sports injury and may need to go and see a doctor.

If you exercise regularly, your muscles will get bigger and stronger, your joints will become stronger and more flexible, and your bones will get stronger. You might even notice parts of your body start to change shape! Your heart will beat stronger and your lungs will breathe more deeply, too. These changes to your body will help exercise to feel easier and can make you less likely to develop certain kinds of diseases when you get older.

That’s why it’s a good idea to make exercise part of your weekly routine, and there are lots of different sports that you can try. If you find one that you love, exercising can be lots of fun! My children like gymnastics, trampolining and swimming. What kinds of exercise do you like to do?

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