Written on March 24, 2023 by Sendra Yang, PharmD, MBA. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
Table of contents
A large number of Americans suffer from chronic inflammatory diseases. According to the latest CDC data, 6 out of 10 adults have a chronic disease, and 4 out of 10 adults have two or more . The leading causes of chronic disease are heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, costing the American healthcare system $4.1 trillion annually . Behavioral factors such as tobacco use, poor nutrition, excessive alcohol use, and lack of physical activity increase the risk of developing chronic inflammatory diseases . You can reduce your risk of chronic inflammation by exercising for as little as 20 minutes . Exercise activities can also help prevent unhealthy weight gain, improve mental health, and build muscle . Exercise can improve your health now and in the future and may not cost you anything. Let’s take a look at how exercise can reduce inflammation.
Inflammation is a natural defensive response of your body. The inflammatory response enables your body to fight off pathogens, chemical irritants, or injuries and helps your body heal . Inflammation can be short-term (acute inflammation) or long-term (chronic inflammation) . Acute inflammation starts rapidly, and the symptoms can be short. Chronic inflammation can last a long time. Some symptoms that result from chronic inflammation include body pain, fatigue, weight gain, mood disorder, or frequent infections . Although inflammation is a natural protective response, sometimes inflammation does not help your body. It can cause lifelong chronic diseases such as psoriasis or inflammatory bowel disease, Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease .
The good news is that recent research studies have demonstrated that exercise can lower your body’s inflammatory response [2,5,6]. One way regular exercise does this is by reducing fatty tissues in your body. These fatty tissues, called adipocytes, are thought to have proteins that sense invading pathogens and cause inflammation [7-9]. These signals then activate inflammatory responses in your body. When you exercise and lose body fat, it can help reduce inflammation. Another mechanism of the anti-inflammatory effect of exercise is the release of a protein called interleukin-6 (IL-6). Your muscles release IL-6 during exercise, and these proteins have an anti-inflammatory response by antagonizing and inhibiting molecules that induce inflammation . Although exercise helps reduce inflammation, it can also cause you to become more susceptible to infections. This is thought to be associated with the anti-inflammatory response from exercising.
Participating in regular exercise is one of the most important things you can do to improve your lifestyle and health. A simple exercise routine can add a lot of health benefits to your life. An estimated 110,000 deaths per year could be prevented in adults 40 years or older if only they increased their physical activity . Exercise can significantly impact your wellness and reduce risk factors that can contribute to inflammation.
Even moderate exercise like walking can help lower inflammation . Going for a walk is probably one of the cheapest and most enjoyable exercise methods, and it is accessible to just about anyone. Walking can be done on a treadmill in a gym or in the privacy of your home. You can adjust the difficulty level on a treadmill to suit your preference and level of activity. If you instead walk outside in nature, it costs you very little to start. The outdoors can add enjoyment from nature’s sights, sounds, and smells to stimulate your senses and relax you while you walk.
Weight training can help you reduce inflammation-related diseases such as heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes . You don’t have to be a super weight lifter to enjoy the benefits of resistance training. Weight training can help you build muscle mass and burn fat. Some weight-resistance training you could start with are pushups, squats, or pull-ups. This simple weight-training exercise enables you to build upper and lower body muscles and does not cost you any money to start. If you enjoy lifting weights, you could join a gym and get access to a personal trainer and equipment you would otherwise not have at home. If you are a novice at lifting weights, a personal trainer could help you lift weights safely and realize your goals.
Adding yoga to your exercise routine is an excellent way to help your mind relax. Your mental state can play a role in activating or preventing inflammation . Yoga can be practiced in the privacy of your home or in a group. Yoga consists of a combination of deep breathing exercises and gentle movements. Yoga can help you lower stress and decrease anxiety to better deal with stressful situations.
If you have questions about how exercise can improve your wellness and reduce inflammation, talk to our healthcare provider to learn more. Everlywell provides access to telehealth through Virtual Care Visits, where you can consult with a healthcare provider for recommendations to reach your New Year's health goals. There is also an option for various at-home lab testing, including for inflammation testing.