5 Exercises That Can Help Reduce Inflammation
Inflammation is a buzz-kill when it is a chronic occurrence in our bodies. Of course, the body is always creating inflammation as a self-defence mechanism, amongst other things. We discussed several approaches to the management of chronic inflammation in a previous article. Today, let’s look at how exercise can help the body to limit the amount of inflammation that burns through us.
There is also a podcast that we did on how inflammation affects our mobility as we age:
What does chronic inflammation look like?
Early symptoms of chronic inflammation may be vague. There are subtle signs and symptoms that may go undetected for a long period. You may just feel slightly fatigued, or even normal. As inflammation progresses, however, it begins to damage your arteries, organs, and joints. Left unchecked, it can contribute to chronic diseases. These may include heart disease, blood vessel disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and other conditions.
Lately, many people are taking their health into account as a priority. Because of this, it is a good idea to see how we can incorporate exercise into our anti-inflammatory regime.
According to a study performed in 2011 (the geeky stuff), the reason why moderate exercise may be helpful to reduce chronic inflammation is as follows:
Possible mechanisms by which exercise exerts its anti-inflammatory effect include: release of interleukin-6 (IL-6) into the circulation from contracting muscle fibres and subsequent increases in circulating levels of IL-10 and IL-1 receptor antagonist; increased circulating numbers of IL-10-secreting regulatory T cells; downregulation of Toll-like receptor expression on monocytes and inhibition of downstream responses (such as pro-inflammatory cytokine production, antigen presentation and co-stimulatory molecule expression); reduction in the circulating numbers of pro-inflammatory monocytes; and inhibition of monocyte and/or macrophage infiltration into adipose tissue.
Gleeson, M., Bishop, N., Stensel, D. et al. The anti-inflammatory effects of exercise: mechanisms and implications for the prevention and treatment of disease. Nat Rev Immunol 11, 607–615 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1038/nri3041
Exercises that can help reduce chronic inflammation
Make time for 30 to 45 minutes of aerobic exercise at least four to five times per week. Add in 10 to 25 minutes of weight or resistance training if you can as well.
Regular exercise tends to lower markers of systemic inflammation. Over-exercising, however, can create increased markers of chronic inflammation. When you over-train, you can become systemically inflamed in the process. The stress remains, and the inflammation will not subside.
One of the easiest ways to introduce moderate exercise into your routine is walking. It is a low-impact form of exercise. In fact, even as little as 20 minutes per day can have significant health benefits.
Moreover, the time that one spends outside has many added benefits. This is especially true if you can get out into nature! In addition, it doesn’t cost an expensive gym membership to participate!
Yoga has generally been hailed as one of the most gentle anti-inflammatory approaches. After all, it is called meditation in motion. It can reduce anxiety and possibly lower inflammation. Furthermore, it can also help lower blood pressure and improve symptoms of depression.
Of course, there are many different styles and techniques. My suggestion would be to start off watching (and joining) some online classes or videos. Then, if you feel the need, you can join in a more formal class setting.
3. Bodyweight training
One of the best ways to build strength without stressing the joints unnecessarily is bodyweight exercise. Again, this is something that can be done at home without needing to fork out money. See the pattern I’m following yet? :-) If done mindfully, it can also help lower inflammation.
This form of training can be tailored to your fitness level. Try the following one on for size and challenge the family and friends to join in!
- 20 Bodyweight squats
- 10 Push-ups
- 10 Walking lunges (each leg)
- 10 Dumbbell rows (use a milk jug or other weight)
- 15 Second Plank
- 30 Jumping jacks
Repeat the above 3 times for a challenging workout as a beginner!
Ok, here you would need to spend some money initially. Riding a bike is a great choice for people with joint pain and arthritis since it is low-impact. Plus, cycling promotes a range of motion at both the hip and knee.
5. Swimming to reduce inflammation
Although it isn’t for everyone, swimming can be of great benefit for people. Even more so if it’s cold water swimming. This is a quick hack to reduce inflammation and to help muscles recover more quickly. How cold, you say? Water below 16 degrees Celsius / 60 Fahrenheit is deemed cold enough to reduce inflammation in the body. In time the body does adapt to cold!
Of course, it is important to bring other factors into play when we want to lower inflammation. The exercises above should give you a good running start as you explore the other avenues of lifestyle management!