When the body sustains an injury, it reacts by initiating an inflammatory process to increase nutrients to the injured area and promote healing. This process is marked by redness, warmth, and swelling in the area. This is an important part of recovering the health of the body’s tissue. But sometimes a problem occurs when this inflammatory cascade is not “turned off,” leaving the body in a state of chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation can be inconvenient and can cause health issues. In addition to the heavy, uncomfortable feeling, chronic inflammation has been shown to cause long-term damage to the brain, heart, and several other organs. It has also been linked to several diseases like Alzheimer’s and chronic heart failure (Reina-couto et al.; Schwartz).
So chronic inflammation is certainly not something we can ignore. But what should we do about it? While the use of pharmaceuticals and nutrition adjustments can have an effect, there is one area of treatment that is often ignored: exercise!
Why could exercise be a better option to manage your chronic inflammation? By using exercise as your strategy, you could reduce your inflammation while also gaining benefits to nearly every system of the body, improving your overall health. The muscle pump associated with exercise can promote the movement of fluids in the arms and legs back toward the heart, “resetting” the continuous inflammatory process.
What types of exercise should you do? More studies exist to support the use of aerobic exercise, but resistance training has been proven helpful as well (Beavers, Brinkley, and Nicklas). This means that any exercise can be helpful, but aerobic exercise may be the most effective tool. If you’re having trouble getting started, here are some ideas to start your process:
Walking has great effects on your health. Walking is an exercise that uses the entire body and also has a cardiovascular component. Another plus is that walking can be done anywhere, so why not incorporate a thirty-minute walk into your routine?
Straight leg raises
This is an easy one that could be done laying on the bed, couch, or floor. Start out lying on your back. Bend one leg and rest the foot close to your other leg. Lift the straight leg up until your knees are at the same height. Hold for 1-2 seconds and then lower back down. Make sure to squeeze your thigh the whole time. See if you could do three sets of ten.
Bridges are a great way to exercise while engaging muscles along the back, bottom, and hamstrings. Start by lying on your back with both legs bent, feet planted on the ground, and arms by your side. Lift your bottom up toward the ceiling. Hold for 1-2 seconds and then lower back down.
Exercise is certainly not a one-time fix for chronic inflammation. The key is to incorporate exercise into your everyday life. While sitting on the couch and watching TV, consider doing a few heel raises. Take a lap around the house during the commercial break. Use exercise as a social platform. Invite a friend to take a walk with you or join you for an exercise class at the local gym. Start your morning off right with the exercise bike.
Think of exercise as a daily habit. If you want to have a healthy mouth, you brush and floss every day. If you want to reduce your chronic inflammation through exercise, you must use your body every day. Figure out what works for you and have fun with it!
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