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Stop Playing in a Tiny Sandbox

When injuries or pain occur in life we tend to make physical concessions secondary a bevy of reasons, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • advice from friends, the Internet, social media, or medical practitioners

  • pain itself

  • our thoughts about our pain

  • our attitudes and beliefs surrounding our symptoms

As children, we grow up playful and daring, unafraid to attempt anything. As we age, we are operantly conditioned to be less daring- which is not always a bad thing! This is born out of survival. For example, no one argues that touching a hot stove is a bad idea. We all learn this lesson at some point as a child. This is good operant conditioning.

But, unfortunately, that conditioning never stops, even when we have enormous amounts of experience and data that we are rationally able to scrutinize. Which is to say, over time our proverbial “sandbox” shrinks because of the boundaries WE start setting up.

Tell me if this sounds familiar:

“My doctor says I cannot run because I have arthritis.”


“I’ve not worked out in years because every time I do I get injured.”


“I am too old to get fit.”

These are often lies we have been told, or worse, lies we tell ourselves. Every time we believe them, the walls of our sandbox close in a little tighter.

Aging is a slippery slope that sneaks up on everyone, but by the time people realize they need to do something, the ground that needs to be covered feels too daunting to do something about. So, we concede our quality of life to father time.

This is no fun. But, fortunately, there is a cure for this! it's called “evidence.”

We know there are no non-responders to exercise, regardless of age (Article 1). Lift weights, practice your balance, ride your bike, and jump up and down. You are effectively guaranteed to improve your quality of life if you do these things consistently! (Assuming there are no serious underlying conditions.)

Even cooler than this, there is a secret formula that essentially reduces pain for life. The formula is really complicated though (sarcasm). It takes a few things: a body + movement + doing hard things.

We now understand that exposure to sport improves an organism's resiliency to pain (Article 2). While endurance athletes have a higher pain tolerance (can withstand pain longer), strength athletes have a higher pain threshold (takes more stimuli to cause pain). But both endurance and strength athletes have higher pain thresholds and tolerances when compared to non-athletes.


Exercise regularly, vary the types of exercises that you do, and increase the intensity at which you workout.

These things transform our small sandboxes into much larger, more fun places to play. This promotes longevity, reduces risk factors for disease, reduces pain, and improves overall wellness.

Time to get playing!


Jake Reynolds, PT, DPT, OCS

Article 1: Churchward-Venne TA, Tieland M, Verdijk LB, Leenders M, Dirks ML, de Groot LC, van Loon LJ.There Are No Nonresponders to Resistance-Type Exercise Training in Older Men and Women.J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2015 May 1;16(5):400-11. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2015.01.071. Epub 2015 Feb 21.

Article 2: Assa, Tal & Geva, Nirit & Zarkh, Yoni & Defrin, Ruth. The type of sport matters; pain perception of endurance athletes vs. strength athletes. Euro J Pain. 2018;23. 10.1002/ejp.1335.

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