Does Exercise Reduce Inflammation?

Inflammation plays a role in everyone's health. And whilst the effects generated by acute inflammation are beneficial for healing, the low-grade form of inflammation causes severe health damage and is a research concern.

The presence of inflammation may be revealed by headaches, bleeding gums, diarrhea,  joints cracking...which may seem like minor inconveniences but should be regarded as signs of inflammatory reactions.

Chronic inflammation should be understood as systemic, meaning that it affects the entire system. As an example: stomach disorders, joint pain, headaches, and allergy are one and the same response to an inflammatory state.  It is therefore essential to find means to reduce inflammation rather than treating each symptom independently.

Does exercise help reduce inflammation? It is well known that exercise is good for health and research now shows that regular exercise is one of the means to reduce inflammation.

Who is concerned with inflammation?

We all are!

Stress, pollution, lack of sleep, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, unhealthy life habits, genetic heritage (birth does not make us equal...), are all different causes that will worsen inflammation in the body.

Whether you are suffering from stress, obesity, diabetes, intestinal inflammatory diseases, arthritis, recovering from hospitalization, or deep emotional chock, inflammation insidiously creeps into your system. 

Aging and inflammation, unfortunately, seem to act hand in hand. Chronic inflammation is also a common ailment which increases with time. As with all bodily functions, the immune system's response also declines with age, which makes it more difficult for the anti-inflammatory process to react. There are other reasons that promote inflammation with aging. The amount of oxidative stress linked to a lower antioxidant capacity is one of them. It has also been observed that the response to acute inflammation is different amongst elderly people, prolonging the inflammatory response when it should only be temporary. This would be due to an impaired immune response due to aging itself.

Exercise to reduce inflammation

All studies seem to agree on the fact that exercise is a means to reduce inflammation, as well as age-related inflammation.

Diverse reports show that regular low-intensity exercise reduces markers of low-grade inflammation amongst the over 60 year-olders. Exercise may be gentle, such as walking, gardening, swimming.. 20 minutes, 3 times a week is enough to produce the desired effects. 

These studies and conclusions apply to all: the elderly but also those suffering from any inflammatory-related disease. Inflammation also generates a rise in adipose tissue that in turn produces pro-inflammatory cytokines meaning that exercise alone is not sufficient. 

How to reduce inflammation fast? 

A desire to reduce inflammation in our bodies must also be accompanied by a properly set up an anti-inflammatory diet. Inflammation is controlled by the proper intake of micronutrients, macronutrients, plant phenols, fibre, probiotics, and fatty-acids. Diet, gut health, and exercise work hand in hand.

What happens during exercise?

When you exercise, your sympathetic nervous system is stimulated, which triggers the production of adrenaline and noradrenaline hormones. This liberation of hormones then activates adrenergic receptors, influencing the immunological system that will then liberate pro-inflammatory cytokines.

According to data, 20 minutes is supposedly enough to lower by 5% the production of immune cells responsible for the liberation of pro-inflammatory TNFa.

The case of athletes

Exercise can be either good or bad for inflammation. Many athletes suffer from impaired immunity. Why is it so? Repeated high-intensity workouts that impact directly on our gut health (remember this is where most of our immune reactions occur!). During endurance training, the flow of blood to your gut is lowered as it is drawn in priority towards your muscles. The damage occurs later, when the blood returns to the gut, loaded with toxins. This phenomenon will create damage to the microbiome as well as on the gut lining, impairing the proper functioning of our immune systems.

It is also widely proved that high-intensity exercise stimulates the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as TNFa IL6. 

How to reduce work out-inflammation?

One simple, straight foreword habit to take is to consume carbohydrate-rich drinks and electrolytes during training. Glucose has an anti-inflammatory effect on the gut and inhibits the IL6 production. This is easy to do and is essential if you wish to keep away from inflammatory-generated injuries (or immune and hormonal disorders such as colds, flu, stomach aches, diarrhea, mental fatigue, and many more..)

Post-workout our bodies will continue generating the inflammatory process, this is why a post-workout snack is absolutely essential. A mix of carbs and protein will do, Crownhealth has a perfectly balanced shake that serves the purpose. 

When talking about inflammation control and exercise, it is essential to determine first whether you are an athlete or not as inflammation mechanisms do not work exactly in the same way.

If you are not very sporty, then take up a sport and move! Physical activity will definitely help activate the anti-inflammatory process. 

If on the other hand, you are one of those that train 4 to 7 (or more!) times a week, have a full-time job and 3 children, consider slowing down a little and adapting both lifestyles, diet, and specific sports nutrition.

Homeostasis is the key word at the root of the proper functioning of any ecosystem. This applies to humans too. Inflammation is the sign that something is going wrong inside. Like in an orchestra, look out for the instrument responsible for the disharmony.  

Author: Marie-Noëlle Bourgeois, Nutritionist at Bounce Up Micronutrition


Inflammation and exercise: Inhibition of monocytic intracellular TNF production by acute exercise via β2-adrenergic activation, StoyanDimitrov, ElaineHulteng, SuziHong, Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, Volume 61, March 2017, Pages 60-68.

Exercise, Inflammation and Aging, Jeffrey A. Woods, Kenneth R. Wilund, Stephen A. Martin, Brandon M. Kistler. Department of Kinesiology and Community Health, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Urbana IL, 61801, USA 

Ageing is associated with a prolonged fever response in human endotoxemia. Krabbe KS, Bruunsgaard H, Hansen CM, Moller K, Fonsmark L, Qvist J, Madsen PL, Kronborg G, Andersen HO, Skinhoj P and Pedersen BK (2001). Clin Diagn Lab Immunol, 8: 333-338

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