Acute inflammation is a normal immune response to bacteria, viruses or injuries. Characterized by heat, redness, swelling, pain or loss of function, acute inflammation lasts for days or weeks at most, and is a healthy response to help our bodies become stronger. This is particularly true for those who exercise to improve health, as some degree of inflammation is necessary to help your body rebuild tissues and increase strength and stamina to prepare for future demands.
As we age, inflammation levels tend to rise. Instead of a few days of pain and discomfort, inflammation becomes chronic. The symptoms are more mild, yet continued stress to the immune system disrupts our natural defense mechanisms and can damage otherwise healthy tissues. Chronic inflammation, caused by smoking, pollution, inactivity, sleep deprivation, stress and poor nutrition, is at the root of many modern diseases.
Preventing Age-Related Inflammation with Exercise
Research continues to suggest that regular exercise is associated with lower levels of inflammation and may be the key to moderating chronic inflammation caused by age and lifestyle factors. In a study published by the American Heart Association’s Circulation journal, over 4,000 men and women at the average age of 49 were studied over a 10-year period to determine the relationship between physical activity and inflammation. From the outset, physically active participants showed lower markers of inflammation, and the results remained stable over time. At the end of the study, 49% of participants adhered to at least 2.5 hours per week of moderate to vigorous activity and were able to maintain lower levels of inflammation than their less active counterparts. No matter what age you start exercising, regular physical activity may play an important role in preventing the onset of inflammation as you age.
Reducing Chronic Inflammation with Weight Training
If weight training briefly increases acute inflammation (the stiffness and sore muscles you experience after a tough workout), what happens to chronic inflammation? A University study published in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal found that weight training reduced markers of inflammation in obese, postmenopausal women, in the absence of changes in body composition. The subjects had not participated in any exercise 6 months prior to the study, and were not smoking, taking hormone replacements, or affected with any immune or metabolic disorders. For their age and BMI, study participants could be considered very healthy. After a 12-week weight training program, participants not only reduced their levels of chronic inflammation, their bodies were better able to respond to periods of acute inflammation. Aerobic exercise is frequently prescribed to reduce the risk of disease, however, weight training may be key to unlocking the anti-inflammatory benefits of regular exercise.
The Positive Effects of Exercise Go Beyond Weight Loss
The positive effects of physical activity and exercise are hard to ignore. Not only is it a means to combat many health conditions and diseases, regular exercise has been shown to have a measurable impact on improving the body’s response to both acute and chronic inflammation. People who are regularly active sleep better, are more social, and experience a greater zest for life. Regardless of whether you lose weight, the positive effects that come with regular exercise are crucial to maintaining quality of life as you age.
Sarah Dalton is the founder of Able Mind Able Body, a Las Vegas based company offering motivational lifestyle coaching and personal training services. She takes a holistic approach to healthy living, and educates others on the benefits of nutrition, exercise, and emotional health. Visit www.ablemindablebody.com for more info.