Regular physical activity can offer us a multitude of health benefits. Recent studies show just 20 minutes a day can produce anti-inflammatory effects, adding to the already lengthy list of how fitness can support our bodies. That’s right! In addition to reducing heart disease, lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of Diabetes type 2, reducing the risk of cancer, improving metabolism and weight loss, strengthening the heart, muscles, and bones — regular exercise can also reduce inflammation and your chances of suffering from other inflammatory conditions.
Twenty minutes a day is all it takes. Researchers believe that exercise stimulates the sympathetic nervous system which increases the heart and breathing rate, releases certain hormones, and triggers the body’s anti-inflammatory responses. This type of activity can help suppress the overproduction of monocytic cytokines. Cytokines play a broad role to help our immune systems fight and respond to disease. They can be helpful to ward off and attack dangerous pathogens. However, an overabundance can actually CAUSE disease, chronic inflammatory diseases.
One cytokine in particular, TNF, can help cells proliferate and send pro-inflammatory cells to the site of an injury and/or threat to the body. TNF can also kill cells, including cancerous ones. This is one of the many cases where ‘too much of a good thing’ can be problematic. Studies have shown exercise to reduce this specific cytokine, furthering the reduction of excessive inflammatory responses in the body.
Study after study has shown extended exercise programs to reduce markers of inflammation like C-reactive protein (CRP). However, there are also studies that show acute spikes in inflammatory markers, namely stemming from strenuous endurance event training or simply working out too hard, too often. Chronic cardio, training and competing constantly for marathons/triathlons, daily Crossfit, etc. is an easy way to turn acute inflammation into chronic inflammation. Like anything else in life, moderation and common sense is key. The body needs activity, sometimes intense, but it also needs rest. Over-training can be almost as dangerous as remaining inactive, especially when it comes to inflammation. Generally, if you listen closely enough, your body will let you know which direction you are pushing it.
There are tons and tons of great workout options at your fingertips. There are even low impact workouts that can really pack a caloric punch without killing and stressing those precious joints. Low impact does not have to translate to low intensity. Those suffering with joint pain, including Gout and Arthritis sufferers, know all too well how dangerous high impact exercise can be. If you are able to perform high-impact exercises, be sure to limit them to 2 or 3 times a week, on non-consecutive days. Be sure to also limit the amount of time you spend exercising on high-intensity days. More than 20-30 minutes of high-intensity exercise will INCREASE inflammation. Moderate exercise for up to 60 minutes can reduce the inflammatory markers. Go for a brisk walk. Go for a swim. Take a nice bike ride. Lift some light weights. Learn yoga. Start slowly, build up, increase your flexibility and mobility, be smart, stay hydrated — but GET MOVING!