What Kind of Exercise Improves Inflammation the Most?
The Benefits of Physical Activity:
Physical activity improves health, reduces risk factors for disease and helps maintain a healthy weight. Regular physical activity can improve your overall well being and help you live longer.
Research shows that regular physical activity may prevent or delay many diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis and osteoporosis.
Exercise can lower blood pressure, decrease cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancers. Regular physical activity has been shown to benefit your mental health as well.
Studies have found that regular exercise can improve mood and concentration levels. You might even feel less stressed during stressful situations.
Regular physical activity has been linked with reduced stress, anxiety and depression which are all common symptoms associated with aging.
How Does Exercising Affect Your Body?
Exercise increases the production of endorphins (feel good hormones) and serotonin. Endorphins are released from your brain when you engage in activities that produce feelings of pleasure.
Serotonin is another hormone produced by your brain that regulates mood and emotions. Both these chemicals work together to make you feel better after exercising.
Physical activity causes your brain to release a protein called brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This protein is responsible for the growth and development of nerve cells.
The more BDNF your body produces, the more nerve cells are developed in the parts of your brain that control mood and behavior.
With regular exercise you will feel better, sleep better and think more clearly. This will reduce stress and anxiety levels and increase your feeling of well-being.
As you grow older, your body becomes less able to regulate inflammation. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to infection and disease.
Your body increases the temperature in the area to fight the infection or get rid of the problem. This is good when short term, but when it takes place over a long period of time it can cause problems.
In the short term, the inflammatory response causes symptoms such as swelling, redness and pain.
Inflammation of the Joints
Inflammation of the joints can be caused by a number of things including injury, disease and age. Injuries involving the joints can cause swelling and pain due to bleeding into the area.
Infections of the joints are quite common and they are usually accompanied by a fever. Arthritis is another type of inflammation that affects the joints. The cause of this problem is not well understood, but it appears to be the result of environmental and genetic factors. Other diseases such as gout can also affect the joints and cause pain and swelling.
Inflammation of Organs
Many types of infection can cause inflammation of the internal organs. The heart, for example, can become inflamed due to a bacterial or viral infection.
This type of inflammation is called myocarditis. If the lungs become infected it can cause pneumonia. Bacterial infections of the abdominal organs cause peritonitis and if the kidneys become infected it is called nephritis.
Inflammation of Blood Vessels
Inflammation of blood vessels is called vasculitis and can be caused by injury, infection or age. When this occurs in the brain it causes a disorder called arteritis.
Atherosclerosis is an example of arteritis that affects the blood vessels outside of the brain. In this condition, fatty deposits, called plaque, accumulate within the walls of the arteries that supply blood to the brain.
Your body has a complex defense system that protects you from infection and disease. One part of this defense system is the inflammatory response.
This system is like having an emergency fire brigade that attacks any perceived threat to your health.
As we discussed earlier, the inflammatory response is good when it is only needed temporarily. However, if it is needed for a long period of time it can become destructive rather than beneficial.
How Does Exercise Reduce Inflammation?
Exercise reduces many of the factors that cause inflammation. Many chronic conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and type 2 diabetes are the result of long-term inflammation within the body. These are conditions that don’t just happen overnight. They usually develop slowly over a long period of time.
As we grow older we start to develop some chronic conditions and this is quite normal. The problem is that as the number of chronic conditions increases then so does the risk of death.
However, research has shown that people who exercise have a lower incidence of many of these same conditions even into old age.
Exercise also helps to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. With the rising incidence of obesity in western society, the number of people with type 2 diabetes is also on the rise.
As we have already seen, type 2 diabetes is a disorder involving insulin resistance. This means that glucose cannot enter the cells and be used as a source of energy.
Exercise reduces insulin resistance and improves the body’s response to insulin. So by exercising you are reducing the risk factors for both inflammation and diabetes.
Exercise and the Immune System
Exercise can also affect the immune system. It does this in two ways.
First of all, by making you breathe harder it increases the levels of oxygen in your blood. This has two beneficial effects on the immune system.
Second, exercise temporarily reduces the number of white blood cells that fight infection within the body. The reason for this is that exercise causes tiny microscopic micro-tears in muscular and skin tissue.
If the immune system was active during this time it would also begin attacking these micro-tears.
However, the immune response returns to normal once the exercise session has ended. This temporary suppression of the immune system reduces the risk of injury or illness taking hold while you are exercising.
Exercise and the Brain
Exercise is also important for brain health. The human brain does not grow during childhood but increases in complexity.
However, as we grow older there is a marked reduction in the number of connections between brain cells. This is generally considered to be a bad thing and several factors such as learning new things and playing mentally challenging computer games can help to reverse this decline.
Exercise is also effective at reversing this mental decline. It is particularly useful at improving the connections between brain cells.
The improvement in brain function caused by exercise is greater than that of chess players despite their constant mental challenges.
Benefits of Regular Exercise
By now you should be convinced of the numerous benefits that exercise has on your body. It can reduce your risk of many diseases, keep you mentally alert, improve how you feel and even affect how long you live.
As we have seen, the list of potential benefits is quite extensive. There are however some additional points that are also worth noting.
First of all, it’s generally best to consult a doctor before starting any new exercise routine. He or she will be able to assess your general level of health and recommend a suitable starting point for you.
Secondly, the best type of exercise is the one you’ll actually do on a regular basis. There is no point in having a great fitness machine in your home or spending money on a gym membership that you won’t use.
If you really don’t like the idea of outdoor exercise you could always try exercising while watching TV or listening to educational tapes. Just be sure to keep your mind occupied or you’ll soon get bored and give up.
Finally, it’s worth remembering that physical activity and exercise will only complement rather than replace a balanced diet. In other words, you can’t exercise away a poor diet.
Exercise is like most things in life. Everything is good in moderation.
So if you are to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine, try to make it fun. For example, walking is a great aerobic exercise and you can get some great views (and fresh air) while you’re at it.
Alternatively, visit a fun park with a bunch of your friends and go on the rides.
Sources & references used in this article:
Exercise as an anti-inflammatory intervention to combat inflammatory diseases of muscle by GA Nader, IE Lundberg – Current opinion in rheumatology, 2009 – journals.lww.com
Impact of physical activity on inflammation: effects on cardiovascular disease risk and other inflammatory conditions by S Ertek, A Cicero – Archives of medical science: AMS, 2012 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Sporadic inclusion body myositis: pilot study on the effects of a home exercise program on muscle function, histopathology and inflammatory reaction by S Arnardottir, H Alexanderson… – Journal of …, 2003 – researchgate.net
Effects of physical exercise on neuroinflammation, neuroplasticity, neurodegeneration, and behavior: what we can learn from animal models in clinical settings by M Svensson, J Lexell… – … and neural repair, 2015 – journals.sagepub.com
Exercise builds brain health: key roles of growth factor cascades and inflammation by CW Cotman, NC Berchtold, LA Christie – Trends in neurosciences, 2007 – Elsevier
Exercise as a mean to control low-grade systemic inflammation by N Mathur, BK Pedersen – Mediators of inflammation, 2008 – hindawi.com
Trauma-induced systemic inflammatory response versus exercise-induced immunomodulatory effects by E Fehrenbach, ME Schneider – Sports medicine, 2006 – Springer
The effects of aerobic, resistance, and combined exercise on metabolic control, inflammatory markers, adipocytokines, and muscle insulin signaling in patients … by MLMP Jorge, VN de Oliveira, NM Resende, LF Paraiso… – Metabolism, 2011 – Elsevier
A comparison of aerobic exercise and resistance training in patients with and without chronic kidney disease by I Moinuddin, DJ Leehey – Advances in chronic kidney disease, 2008 – Elsevier