How does exercise impact inflammation?

How does exercise impact inflammation?

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I was recently asked by an old colleague of mine to help out with a podcast discussing exercise and inflammation.

My very first podcast :)

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Despite being a great conversation, it made me realise that there is still a lot of confusion out there as to how exercise affects inflammation and vice versa. So today's post is a summary of some of the key questions we tackled in the podcast. All of which have been asked by different patients over the years. So if you are interested in lowering inflammation in your body, you might enjoy this one!

What is the difference between short and long term inflammation?

We started our chat by discussing the difference between short and long term inflammatory processes. Firstly, we all agreed that in the short-term, inflammation is typically a super duper healthy process that helps our bodies heal! In essence, inflammation is the activation of the body's immune system in response to tissue stress, injury or infection. If you have ever sprained your ankle, or fallen awkwardly onto your knees, you would have probably experienced your body's short term inflammatory response in full flight! Often, as the tissue or injured area begins to heal, the obvious signs of inflammation (swelling, pain, redness) start to dwindle. Inflammation that sticks around for a longer period of time, is not so helpful. This is what we often encounter when dealing with conditions such as gout, rheumatoid arthritis, or spondyloarthritis. In these instances, the body will likely require assistance to lower the levels of inflammation present in the body. Inflammation that is present for a longer periods of time (weeks, months, years) can cause pain, fatigue and impact an individuals ability to do the things they want to do. So we are keen to avoid this occurring whenever possible!

How does adipose (fatty) tissue impact inflammation?

There is now evidence to suggest that fat cells are pro- inflammatory in nature. So for those with an inflammatory condition, excessive adipose tissue can act as somewhat of an enabler to the inflammation occurring within your body. Whilst some adipose tissue is normal and required for our bodies to function effectively, we are conscious to help our clients manage their body composition where possible. We now also know that certain foods are more pro-inflammatory than others, click here to read more about these.

Should I exercise when a joint is swollen and/or inflamed?

This is a question that commonly gets asked to those in our team. Now although my bias is to always encourage movement in my clients where possible, there are clearly some occasions where this is not the greatest advice. Sore, swollen and angry joints typically don't appreciate being tested and stressed further! Our typical advice would be to ensure your exercise session either avoids the swollen joint, or only requires movements that do not stress the injured/inflammed area. We also encourage our clients to always ask if they are unsure! Rest can definitely help settled an inflamed area, so if you are in need of guidance, it is best to ask your health professionals that know your specific circumstances.

Should I exercise if I have a rheumatic/inflammatory condition?

Although the answer to the question above could be nuanced further dependant on the rheumatic disease, my general response to this question is YES!! My main reasons are below :)

  • Strength work helps support your joints! And can be tailored according to your needs and wants.
  • Regular exercise (along with a good diet) can help you manage your body composition
  • Exercise can help manage stress (which can also impact inflammatory levels if not well controlled)
  • Regular mobility work can help keep your tissues long and loose and also help your joints
  • Exercise is essential to help keep strong enough to complete your daily tasks.

So hope the post was enlightening at the very least :) Although managing an inflammatory or rheumatic condition involves much more than just exercise, at BJC Health we do believe it is a fundamental component to helping our clients live and feel better. If you have any further questions about exercise and inflammation, don't hesitate in reaching out!

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