How to reduce chronic inflammation through exercise

When most people think about exercise and inflammation, it almost always has a negative connotation. After all, exercise is a stressor on our body that creates an acute inflammatory response – not to mention unwanted sports- or exercise-related injuries – all of which can be uncomfortable and painful.

But what many people don’t realize is that an appropriate amount of exercise is, in fact, one of the best ways to reduce chronic inflammation.

Anti-inflammatory effects of exercise

Unlike when you sprain an ankle or have an infection, both of which cause an inflammatory response, the dominant response from exercise is anti-inflammatory. The cellular signals released from contracting muscles during exercise actually inhibit the negative inflammatory response that we commonly associate with illness or injury.

Large studies have shown a relationship among regular exercise, reduced pro-inflammatory signals and reductions in low-grade chronic inflammation. This is significant because this type of inflammation has been associated with heart disease or stroke, atherosclerosis, dementia and diabetes, among other conditions. Over time, the benefits from reduced chronic inflammation can include improved glucose management, fat metabolism and immune function, thereby enabling our bodies to be more prepared to combat illness and recover from an injury.

Exercise also teaches our bodies to react better to stressors imposed on it. Training to reach a fitness goal typically involves a cycle of exercise-related stress followed by recovery periods. This training cycle not only results in an improved ability of our body to respond to stress, but also highlights the importance of having appropriate recovery time to keep from overtraining.

Avoid overtraining, avoid inflammation

Although exercise can be a great way to reduce chronic inflammation, without adequate rest and recovery time, it can also result in increased inflammation.

Too much exercise or exercise that is too intense without recovery can result in overtraining – and that can have numerous negative effects. In addition to increased inflammation, you might feel fatigued, have excess muscle and joint soreness and be unable to exercise to the best of your abilities. It’s like when you’re sick or injured – your body simply becomes overstressed and desperate to recuperate. All bodies require time to heal and recover. So, don’t think of a recovery day as a “cheat day,” because your body needs rest and proper nutrients to restore itself.

To get the most anti-inflammatory benefit from your exercise regime and avoid overtraining, a proper plan that allows for an appropriate balance of stimulus and recovery should be followed. A certified kinesiologist can help you determine how much exercise your body can tolerate; however, communication between you and your kinesiologist is also key because only you know how your body is feeling after each training session. In addition to regular exercise, dietary modifications can also be an effective way to reduce chronic inflammation.


If you’re concerned with chronic inflammation, speak with your Copeman kinesiologist to come up with an appropriate exercise plan. And don’t forget to consult with your Copeman dietitian about a well-balanced diet that is right for you.