There’s never been a coach who didn’t utter the words, “No pain, no gain.” It’s a basic motto for athletes. Shaq said, “There are times when you’ve got to play hurt, when you’ve got to block out the pain.” But for the rest of us sweat-stained mortals, that sounds, well, pretty caveman. Enter science.

Researchers in Germany looked at the difference between pain threshold (the point when a person first starts to feel pain) and pain tolerance (how much a person can take) in 550 athletes and more than 330 nonathletic adults. They concluded that the two groups had about the same pain threshold. But when it came to how much pain they could stand, athletes tolerated more than nonathletes.

So what does this mean? It means that if you thought that a sweat-packed exercise routine just reduced stress, decreased wrinkles, prevented obesity, type 2 diabetes and a host of other diseases, improved your brain power and cardiovascular and sexual health and sent happy-hormones coursing through your veins, there’s one more reward to add to the list. Regular exercise helps you tolerate pain better.

So put on a pair of walking, running or cross-training shoes and head out for those 10,000 steps, a 2-, 5- or 10-k run and some weight training (two to three times a week) at the gym. But do it with some intensity. That way, when you’ve got a headache to push through or some minor back pain, you’ll be able to keep going and going and going. Slam dunk!

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Medical Officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. For more information go to