These 5 exercises for inflammation are backed by science

Abdominal pain. Chest pain. Tired. Joint pain or stiffness. Mouth sores and rashes. Digestive distress. What do these evils have in common? They might be symptoms of systemic inflammation.

Inflammation 101

To begin with, it is important to differentiate between acute inflammation and chronic inflammation. When it comes to acute inflammation, that’s probably what you think of when you hear the word “inflamed”: redness, swelling, warmth, pain, or tenderness (think an inflamed cut or a swollen ankle). Your body does this to trap bacteria and jump-start the healing process.

As for the chronic, sometimes called systemic (or systemic chronic), it is a little broader, and the causes can be quite varied, as can the results, which vary from person to person. Essentially, “your body sends out inflammatory cells when you’re not sick or injured,” according to the Cleveland Clinic. Why? Sometimes the the immune system is overworked (as with an autoimmune disease), and other times certain organ systems are specifically affected (as with IBDwhich affects more than 3 million Americans). It can look like anything Crohn’s disease sinusitis gum disease rheumatoid arthritis.

Chronic inflammation—inflammation that persists for months or longer—can “lead to several diseases who collectively represent the main causes of disability and death worldwide, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes mellitus, chronic kidney disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and autoimmune and neurodegenerative disorders,” according to a 2019 study published in Nature.

Exercise for inflammation

The good news is that if you think you’re dealing with chronic inflammation, there’s a free treatment you can start right now, and it’s backed by science! Exercise has been found to reduce inflammation. And before you hop on the treadmill for an hour, know this: 20 minutes is enough.

A 2017 University of California San Diego studyPosted in Brain, behavior and immunity, reported that just a A 20-minute session of moderate exercise “stimulates[s] the immune system, producing an anti-inflammatory cellular response. Ahead, five scientifically proven options for getting another benefit from exercise.

5 anti-inflammatory exercises to try

1. Walk: This aforementioned UCSD study specifically looked at “a single 20-minute moderate treadmill exercise session.” In other words, while walking or jog! A 2018 study on walk for inflammation found similar results: When evaluating patients with rheumatoid arthritis, research found that “a high-intensity interval walking protocol…is associated with reduced disease activity, improved cardiovascular fitness and improved innate immune function, indicating a reduced risk of infection and potential inflammation.”

2. Cycling: Speaking of a fan-favorite low-impact workout, it’s time to get your bike out of the garage or back on the Peloton for a bit cycling. Recent search found that 30 minutes (5-minute warm-up, 5-minute cool-down, 20-minute moderate intensity) resulted in “the attenuation of inflammatory responses.

3. Resistance training: A study in Nutrition research and practice concluded that long-term resistance training “could be an effective way to prevent and delay chronic inflammatory disease.” That said, the study also emphasized sufficient recovery between sessions to ensure they does not aggravate the inflammation. Another study on resistance training and inflammationtargeting breast cancer survivors, found that this type of exercise “effectively reduces plasma- and tissue-specific inflammation and that these changes are associated with reduced fatigue and improved physical and behavioral function in postmenopausal women. [breast cancer survivors].”

4.Yoga: Harvard examined the effects of chronic stress on chronic inflammation and reported that “chronic stress has been linked to…increased chronic inflammation.” To target this cause of inflammation, look no further than a proven sun salutation. Countless studies have shown that yoga has positive effects on mental health, including stress levels and anxiety. There is also research stating that yoga can have a direct impact on biomarkers of inflammation “in a multitude of chronic diseases”.

De-stress the downward dog with this 20-minute flow:

5. Swimming: You don’t have to be Katie Ledecky to reap the anti-inflammatory, anti stress benefits of swimming. Although researchers have not yet studied the effects of swimming on inflammation in humans, a rodent study found that “swimming exercise reduces inflammatory and peripheral neuropathic pain,” and another rodent study found decrease in colitis inflammation with swimming. These effects may be due to the fact that this low impact exercise can improve mood and reduce stress.

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