What is inflammation, and how can exercise help ...?
Updated: Aug 13, 2021
Most people have heard of inflammation, and it gets mentioned regularly at the clinic. But what is it???
- Inflammation is actually special cells called "cytokines", they are released by your tissues when you have an injury or infection.
- These cells signal to your immune system to bring in immune cells, hormones and nutrients to start the repair process
- Other cells cause an increase in blood flow to the area and some clotting to promote healing. This is why an area of inflammation is often red, hot and swollen.
Inflammation is your bodies way of healing itself after an injury and protecting itself from infection, it is an important bodily process. Acute inflammation is an immediate response following tissue damage, it is the bodies natural healing process. Chronic inflammation on the other hand, is when acute infection gives way to ongoing tissue damage and destruction, manifesting as tissue fibrosis.
Long term inflammation can lead to chronic disease, so helping our body regulate our inflammatory processes is very important. When we talk about cytokines there are some that promote inflammation and some that inhibit inflammation. Regular exercise can help activate anti-inflammatory pathways in our bodies and may reduce pro inflammatory chemicals. Cardiovascular disease and diabetes are 2 main conditions that can be protected against with regular exercise, these 2 conditions are known to be associated with chronic low grade inflammation.
Ways exercise can help reduce inflammation:
During exercise our muscles produce chemicals that inhibit the production of pro inflammatory cytokines.
These chemicals also mobilize stored energy from cells, which can regulate the accumulation of fatty tissues (fat/adipose tissue itself is thought to be a driver of inflammation). This includes obvious fatty tissue and also atherosclerotic changes in arteries leading to heart disease.
Suppression of certain chemical processes in the body which can contribute to insulin resistance
Help balance our bodies adrenaline levels, a stress hormone that is important in our fight or flight response, long term high levels of adrenaline can lead to low grade inflammation.
Boost serotonin levels in your brain which helps with mood and overall well-being. It can also help balance out your appetite and sleep cycles, both of which play a role in inflammation regulation.
One study that followed 4,000 middle-aged people over a 10-year period found that those who exercised for 2.5 hours per week lowered their inflammation by 12%. That's only 35 minutes of exercise a day. Another recent study done by Harvard found that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for 1 hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26%.
Take Home Tips;
1. Do regular (daily), low to moderate intensity exercise
2. Maintain a healthy weight
3. Sleep well
4. Eat well
5. Live well