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Exercising This Much Could Reduce Inflammation, Says New Study

June 22, 2023

If you’re looking for a way to improve your overall health and wellness, you might want to consider adding exercise to your routine. Not only can exercise help you stay in shape, but according to a new study, it can also reduce inflammation in your body. While researchers are still investigating how this works exactly, studies have shown that regular moderate exercise can “educate” your immune cells to have a more balanced inflammatory response when exposed to an infection or injury.

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What is inflammation?

Inflammation can occur when the body’s immune system reacts to pathogens or foreign bodies. Although it is essential for restoring tissue and healing, excessive and chronic inflammation can lead to conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases. Research has shown that exercise can modulate the immune system, and moderate-intensity exercise can exert anti-inflammatory effects.

While the mechanisms behind how exercise induces these changes that reduce inflammation remain unknown, a recent study sheds some light on the topic. Researchers explored how macrophages present in bone marrow changed following exercise to induce anti-inflammatory effects. They found that regular moderate exercise rewired metabolic and epigenetic function in macrophages, reducing the inflammatory response.

What the study says

The study, which was published in Cell Physiology, involved female mice that were split into two groups: one that exercised on a treadmill for one hour per day, and the other that did not exercise at all. Both exercise regimes lasted for eight weeks. The researchers collected bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMDMs) from both groups of mice and conducted various tests to assess their inflammatory and antiviral responses. They found that gene expression of inflammatory genes in exercised mice’s BMDMs was significantly lower than that in sedentary controls. The researchers also noted that exercise inhibited other pathways linked to inflammation compared to controls.

Mitochondria play a significant role in metabolic processes that control inflammation and macrophage activation. The researchers found that moderate exercise reduced oxidative stress in BMDMs and improved overall mitochondrial quality in BMDMs. These improvements occurred similarly to how mitochondria adapt in muscle cells following exercise.

The researchers next wanted to see whether these effects could be maintained long-term. To do so, they examined BMDMs from exercised mice after they stopped exercising. After the exercise was stopped for two weeks, both oxidative stress and mitochondrial potential were reduced to sedentary levels.

Related: 7 Tips for Beginner Runners, According to Trainers

But…there are limitations.

Nevertheless, the study’s limitations include that the findings were based on mice rather than humans, and it only observed a small area of the body-wide response to exercise. Still, the results show that regular moderate exercise “educates” immune cells in active individuals to have a more balanced inflammatory response when they are exposed to an infection or injury.

In addition to reducing inflammation, exercise can yield anti-inflammatory effects through the upregulation of anti-inflammatory biomarkers and the decrease of pro-inflammatory biomarkers. Adhering to a healthy, balanced diet that emphasizes whole foods and limits or avoids processed foods and excess sugar may also help lower inflammation. Increasing omega-3 fatty acid intake may also be beneficial.

All in all, regular moderate exercise can reduce inflammation, and researchers are still exploring how this happens. Engaging in moderate and regular exercise could likely “educate” the immune cells in active individuals so they have a more balanced inflammatory response when they are exposed to an infection or injury. Simple lifestyle modifications, including exercise in the sunshine, can have massive health benefits. These can include a healthier and balanced immune system, weight loss, and a decreased tendency to diabetes and heart disease — not to mention decreased anxiety and depression.

Read next: Eating This Nut Every Day Can Boost Exercise Recovery, New Study Suggests

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