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Does Exercise Help Reduce Inflammation?

Woman exercising in a harbour.

The fast and busy-paced lifestyles we all lead combined with not-that-good-for-you foods and inadequate water intake throughout the day can take a toll on your body and cause inflammation, which is thought to be the root cause of many diseases and health conditions.

The best way to stimulate your lymphatic system to reduce inflammation and protect you from its harmful effects is to clean up your diet, lower your stress levels, focus on improving your sleep quality, and include regular exercise in your weekly routine.

What Is Inflammation?

Inflammation is a natural and biological reaction in the human body to any kind of irritant, pathogen, or otherwise foreign and potentially harmful agent. Your immune system responds to a threat by activating its cells and releasing a variety of different chemicals to allow your blood vessels to widen and send blood and nutrients to the affected areas.

It can be acute, which shows up as immediate redness, swelling, and hot skin surface around the affected area, or it can be chronic and slowly build up in the body over time, wreaking havoc from the background.

Usually, acute inflammation caused by an injury isn’t recommended to be dealt with by exercise, but chronic inflammation, the so-called root cause of diseases, definitely is.



How Does Exercise Reduce Inflammation?

Chronic inflammation has a large list of symptoms that are much more subtle than acute inflammation and they’re often overlooked until they become severe. These include fatigue, low energy levels, depression and anxiety, body aches, digestive issues, brain fog, inability to concentrate, and an overall weakened immune system.

This leaves your body prone to a variety of infections and diseases and it can cause plenty of severe health complications down the road if left untreated.

In addition to a healthy diet, exercise is one of the best ways you can help reduce your stress and the overall inflammation in the body, strengthen your immune system, and protect yourself from disease. Studies show how only one moderate workout can already have anti-inflammatory effects, helping improve your blood flow and the transport of nutrients.

Additionally, exercise helps balance out your hormones and decreases the production of many harmful proteins like TNF (tumor necrosis factor) that help regulate local and systemic inflammation. By reducing their impact, exercise helps strengthen your immune response which helps prevent infections and diseases.



Folding Bike

Improve your fitness with this convenient and easy to store bike.

5 Exercises to Reduce Inflammation

We’ve compiled a list of some of the best and easiest exercises that will help stimulate your body to decrease inflammation, flush out toxins, improve blood circulation, and help you feel better overall.

Shoulderstand

Start by laying on your back and lifting your legs up vertically into the air. Inhale and lift your hips, grabbing them from below so you’re fully supporting your pelvis. On your next inhale, lift your hips even higher and activate your legs all the way from your quadriceps through your feet.

Stay here for three to five long inhales and exhales and if you feel challenged, drop your pelvis a bit lower so your legs move in a slightly diagonal position. This will be easier on your upper back while still delivering on its promise to lower your inflammation.

Inversions like this one help bring the blood back to the center of your body and alleviate the pressure on your lower back which can help with pain management and overall inflammation.



Workout Mat

Extra thick mat for all of your favorite workouts.

Walking on Incline





Woman walking on incline treadmill at the gym.
Microgen/Shutterstock.com

Walking is one of the best, low-impact exercises that helps reduce inflammation and stress in your body, and tilting your treadmill just a few inches higher adds a pretty decent challenge. Considered a low-intensity exercise that’s often used for longer periods of time, incline walking helps reduce back pain, strengthens your entire posterior chain, and helps with fat loss as it taps into your fat stores and stimulates your body to use them for fuel.

Start with a small gradient and build up over time. The goal is to make the exercise sustainable for at least 20 and aim for 40-45 minutes in your fat-burning zone. This should be 50-75% of your maximum heart rate.



Sun Salutation Routine

Yoga is known for its relaxing and stress-reducing effects and there’s no better way to start your practice than with sun salutations.

Start in a standing position at the beginning of your mat, feet together. Bring your arms over your head on a long inhale, and exhale bending over your legs and bringing your palms to the floor next to your feet. Bend your knees as much as you need to and relax your head.

Inhale and gaze forward, exhale and step back, coming into a plank position. Activate your core muscles and engage your quadriceps. Inhale and shift your entire body slightly forward, exhale and bend your elbows, lowering your body into a low plank position.

Inhale and push your hips forward, lifting your body into upward facing dog, pressing your palms and both feet firmly into the ground. Exhale and lift your hips up, creating an inverted V shape with your body and coming into a downward facing dog.

Stay here for a few long breath cycles and be still or bend one knee and then the other, taking your dog for “a walk.”



Yoga leggings

Make your workouts comfortable and easy to perform.

Twists

Twisting helps bring fresh blood and oxygen into your entire body, supplying you with a variety of nutrients and helping you flush the toxins out. It’s one of many therapeutic exercises derived from yoga that can help improve your digestion, decrease inflammation, and enhance your quality of life.

Start in a seated position and extend your legs in front of you. Bend your right knee and bring your foot close to your sitting bones. Lift your right foot and place it outside of your left thigh. Grab your right knee with your left hand and pull it close to your body.

Place your right palm behind you, right behind your pelvis, and use it as leverage to push yourself from the floor and straighten your spine. Take a big inhale and on your exhale, slowly start twisting to the right, looking as far behind you as possible. Stay for three long inhales and exhales before repeating the same thing on the other side.



Forward Folds

Another stress-relieving exercise that’s pretty common across many different workout styles are forward folds. When you’re closing your body and folding over your legs, you’re activating your parasympathetic nervous system that stimulates your body to relax and get from “fight or flight” to “rest and digest.”

You can perform any kind of forward fold you like, but it’s always best to start with the easiest. Come into a standing position and separate your feet at a hip-width distance. Inhale and slowly bend over your legs, letting your upper body dangle over your lower. Grab your elbows and slowly start swaying side to side. You can bend your knees if you need to or keep them straight, but relax your upper body as much as you possibly can.

After three to five long inhales and exhales, relax your arms and let them dangle. Feel gravity pull you down and naturally stretch your hamstrings, calves, and your entire back. Stay for as long as you want before gently rolling up to standing.




Inflammation is a serious issue we all deal with in one way or another, and implementing important lifestyle changes is the first and most important step to reduce its harmful effects and prevent it from developing over and over again.

These exercises are easy to perform and even easier to add at the end of every workout. And if you’re struggling with tired legs at the end of your day, you might want to include these stretching exercises as well.