Move to decrease inflammation and feel better!

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In the first article in this series we introduced how chronic inflammation can impact our health and function.  Low levels of consistent inflammation in the body have been linked to pain, arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, and neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.  Research has found that in some cases lowering the chronic inflammation has resulted in decreased severity of those conditions. Prior articles on fish oil and  gut health have focused on food and supplements we can put into, or take out of,  our body to help curb this inflammation. In this article we will discuss how our activity level can influence chronic inflammation within our body, and thus improve our health.  

The good news is numerous studies have shown that increasing our activity level itself can result in signs of lower inflammation and improved health conditions.  More on those specifics below. But increasing activity levels also can lower your weight and help decrease stress, which are ALSO shown to decrease inflammation levels.  So teaming up activity level with weight loss and/or stress management can multiply the positive effects on our health.

Numerous studies have looked at how various activities and activity levels influence inflammation in our bodies.  Many have shown improvements in inflammation and disease with increasing activity levels. However, due to the complex nature of our bodies and inflammation as a whole, the results are mixed as to HOW MUCH or WHAT TYPE of activity definitively decreases inflammation and improves our health.  A general theme to the studies is the longer the exercise was performed the more beneficial the effect on inflammation, although some studies showed vigorous exercise for shorter times had improvement as well. A recent promising study showed 20 minutes of moderate exercise showed improvements in inflammation within the body.    Another study showed light-moderate exercise for 5-10 hours/week also showed improvements in inflammation.

So the good news is that in addition to food and supplements to add to your diet to help inflammation, increasing your activity level can help decrease inflammation and improve your health (and decrease stress, and lose weight, and have less pain, etc).  From the studies it appears numerous ways of increasing your activity can be beneficial, so YOU can choose what works best for YOU. The “best” exercise is probably the one you are most likely to continue to do!!! So find a way to move your body that you enjoy.   Maybe it’s getting back to a sport you’ve missed. Maybe its going for a walk outside with pets or friends or family who can help keep you active and motivated. Maybe its getting back to the gym or some favorite exercise classes. Maybe it’s getting out and playing with your children or grandchildren. Whatever it is, try to increase your activity level and maintain a mild-moderate intensity.  Work into doing those activities for longer duration and/or more often in your week. And if you need guidance with this, the therapists at Colorado in Motion can help. Activity is a great way to decrease your inflammation, improve your overall health, and just FEEL BETTER!!!

Dr. Heather Sieler is a physical therapist at Colorado in Motion

References

Panagiotakos DB, Kokkinos P, Manios Y, Pitsavos C. Physical activity and markers of inflammation and thrombosis related to coronary heart disease. Prev Cardiol. 2004;7:190–194.

Inflammation and exercise: Inhibition of monocytic intracellular TNF production by acute exercise via β2-adrenergic activation, Stoyan Dimitrov et al., Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbi.2016.12.017, published online 21 December 2016, abstract.