You have probably read about the health risks of chronic inflammation. Cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, neuro-degeneration, and tumor growth are all associated with chronic inflammation. Decreasing low-grade chronic inflammation is necessary for disease prevention, heathy aging, and overall wellness; and exercise may help you achieve it.
Inflammation can be reduced by consuming anti-inflammatory foods, which include: vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, some fruits, and avoiding foods that one is sensitive to (e.g. cow dairy, grain fed beef, sugar, processed foods). Danish researchers have now found that exercises reduces chronic inflammation, through myokines.
Myokines are anti-inflammatory cytokines (small signaling proteins that allow for cellular communication) that are released by muscle during exercise. Skeletal muscle releases several myokines during exercise, including IL-6 (interleukin 6). IL-6 when released by white blood cells is pro-inflammatory- but when released by skeletal muscle, IL-6 is anti-inflammatory! IL-6 (a myokine) stimulates production of anti-inflammatory cytokines, which inhibit pro-inflammatory cytokines. One of the pro-inflammatory cytokines is TNF-alpha, which decreases glucose uptake and metabolism, essentially causing insulin resistance in skeletal muscle. The IL-6 released from skeletal muscle increases glucose uptake and fat oxidation, increasing cellular metabolism.
Exercise improves mood, relieves stress, helps people maintain or lose weight, and now is shown to release anti-inflammatory proteins. Exercise, balanced nutrition, and stress reduction techniques are reduce inflammation and disease.
Townsend Letter, June 2012, pg. 24
Brandt C, Pederson BK. The role of exercise-induced myokines in muscle homeostasis and the defense mechanism against chronic disease. J Biomed Biotechnol. 2010.
Mathur N, Pedersen BK. Exercise as a means to control low-grade systemic inflammation. Mediators Inflamm. 2008.