The Anti-Inflammatory Benefits to Working Out

Eating healthy foods isn’t the only way to reduce your risk of disease.

| November 16th, 2012

Salmon, broccoli, kelp and blueberries. These foods, among others, continue to garner praises as they top the hot list for anti-inflammatory cuisine. Proponents of anti-inflammatory diets point to plentiful benefits such as a reduced risk of heart disease and some cancers, and perhaps even a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers are now focusing more attention on the anti-inflammatory benefits of exercise. While studies are not yet conclusive enough to give exact recommendations as to the specific type, intensity, duration or frequency of exercise best suited for anti-inflammatory results, we know that exercise plays a major role in the body’s inflammatory processes. Here are some of the general conclusions we can draw from current research:

MORE: The Anti-inflammatory Diet, Made Easy

1. Regular exercise reduces markers of generalized, systemic inflammation such as C-reactive protein. On the other hand, a single moderate to intense exercise session increases markers of both local (in the muscle tissue) and systemic inflammation. To put it simply, exercise is inflammatory in the very short run and anti-inflammatory in the long run. 

2. Resistance training, such as lifting weights, plays a key role in maximizing anti-inflammatory benefits.

3. Inflammation is a natural, temporary reaction to the physical stresses of an exercise session. It is a necessary part of repairing, rebuilding and ultimately strengthening the involved tissues and systems of the body.

4. As you train, your body gets more efficient at minimizing the short-term inflammatory reaction to exercise. Your body heightens its anti-inflammatory response so that each workout session triggers less of an inflammatory response.

In the aggregate, exercise should work to bolster your efforts of decreasing the amount of inflammation in your body. But some workouts may be sabotaging those efforts instead. 

Given that single exercise bouts temporarily increase inflammation anywhere from a few hours to several days, problems arise when you don’t allow enough time for the acute inflammatory phase to subside before making it spike again with another stressful workout. If you don’t allow full recovery between workouts, you place yourself in a chronic state of inflammation instead of garnering the benefits of decreased inflammation from exercise.

MORE: Happiness Boosts Heart Health 

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