Inflammation is a word that gets thrown around a lot-and for good reason. When inflammation is chronic (rather than acute), meaning it’s slow, cumulative, and lasts for months or even years, it can affect your health in a variety of ways. For one, long-term inflammation weakens your immune system, which can put you at risk for problems like cardiovascular disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and other health issues.
Take an active role in your well-being and work hard to prioritize good sleep, keep your stress levels low and eat anti-inflammatory foods (think cruciferous vegetables, berries, legumes and fish rich in omega-3) can help keep inflammation at bay. And it also has the potential to add years to your life. Another great way to reduce inflammation and boost your immune system is to do some good old-fashioned exercise regularly.
“Any acute exercise induces a low-intensity inflammatory response to which the body then adapts, creating a longer-term anti-inflammatory adaptation,” says Stacy T. Sims, PhD, exercise physiologist and nutritional scientist. “That’s why the fitter you are, the fewer chronic inflammatory markers there are.”
A systematic review of studies in Frontiers in Physiology confirms this, revealing that moderate and vigorous exercise can induce an inflammatory response. However, research notes that “high-intensity exercise, especially when performed with reduced recovery periods, induces persistent dysregulation of the immune system with increased susceptibility to disease.” That’s why it’s so important to take adequate rest days and alternate between vigorous workouts (think: intense HIIT classes) and lower-intensity, low-impact movements (stretching, walking, light cycling, etc.) .).
To reap the inflammatory benefits of exercise and start feeling better overall, try adding one or all of these anti-inflammatory exercises to your fitness routine.
Honestly, taking a good walk is one of the best things you can do for your health. Not only is it free and available to almost anyone, but time spent walking has a ton of beneficial benefits for you, including boosting your energy, improving your memory, and eliminating stress in the you-know- what. It can also help fight inflammation. “It is now understood that the same chemicals released to regulate inflammation are also released during exercise,” says Carlos Davila, fitness professional and diversity and inclusion manager for Fhitting Room. “Jogging or brisk walking for 20 minutes is more than enough to reap the benefits of exercise on inflammation.” What’s more: according to research in Brain, behavior and immunity, even a single 20-minute session of moderate exercise on a treadmill (such as a brisk walk or jog) decreases immune cells that produce TNF, a key regulator of local and systemic inflammation that also helps improve immune responses .
Lifting weights, whether light or heavy, is essential if you want to protect your body from inflammation and its lasting effects. “Strength training invokes anti-inflammatory responses after exercise,” says Sims. (Think of growth hormone release, as well as cytokines mediating immune responses to exercise.) Specifically, a review of studies in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that: “Muscle-strengthening activities were associated with a 10-17% reduced risk of all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, total cancer, diabetes, and lung cancer.” To reap these rewards, be sure to pump some iron at least two days a week.
There’s more to yoga than impressing your friends with a flawless crow pose (although that’s pretty awesome!). This movement practice “invites us to connect with the body so that we can confront and release the latent emotions that we have been hiding,” says Kimberley Copeland, certified yoga teacher and ordained reverend. A systematic review of 15 studies involving more than 900 participants in Biological Research for Nursing also found that becoming flexible can help reduce inflammation in a host of chronic conditions, including high blood pressure, chronic stress, cardiometabolic risk factors, and rheumatoid arthritis.
“[Yoga] reduces inflammation not only by improving circulation and stabilizing breathing, but also by calming the mind and calming the nervous system, which can reduce stress-eating triggers,” adds Copeland. To really reap the benefits, be intentional about your breathing when practicing yoga. “Inhaling and exhaling through your nose helps stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps regulate stress and therefore inflammation in the body,” says yoga instructor Hope Elliot, who recommends spinal twists and the “legs against the wall” pose to help fight inflammation.
Looking for a whole new way to get your heart pumping while keeping inflammation at bay? Jumping on a mini trampoline, or bouncing, was super trendy several years ago, but due to the pandemic and a host of celebrities doing it (we see you, Goldie Hawn), there has been a resurgence, probably because there are so many benefits. For starters, low-impact, high-heart-rate, anti-inflammatory exercises are more effective than running, according to research in the Journal of Applied Physiology. Plus, “it drains your lymphatic system,” says Tiffany Marie, Certified Personal Trainer and Founder/CEO of Trampoline Trim. “So we’re removing toxins from the body while reducing inflammation.” Rebounding has also been found to improve bone density, improve your balance, and also reduce pain severity.
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