Inflammation and Ageing - Exercise

As we age, our risk of developing obesity, diabetes, kidney disease, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's disease and other inflammatory conditions increases. It's a bit of a chicken or egg situation as to whether the inflammation triggers the age related disorder, or if the disease triggers the inflammation. Most research seems to point to a low grade inflammation that develops as we age, which tends to increase with a lifetime of poor diet choices and lack of exercise.

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Our last two blog posts have covered how Oily Fish and herbs such as Tumeric can assist in reducing inflammation and slow the ageing process, so today we are going to look at how exercise can effect our body's ageing process and inflammatory status. 

Exercise has the ability to produce inflammation in the body as well as help reduce it. The key to getting the correct balance, or to get the anti-inflammatory benefits of exercise, is in they type and frequency of the activity. Let's break it down, firstly to how exercise produces inflammation  and secondly to how we can use exercise as a means to reduce inflammation as we age. 

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If you begin a new exercise or fitness regime which includes certain movements that you've not done before, or for a very long time, it stands to reason that the body wouldn't be used to it. In these situations, this unaccustomed exercise can cause tiny little tears in the muscle fibres and connective tissue. The longer the duration of the activity, or the higher intensity that you work at, the more damage that occurs. Don't worry, it's not necessarily a "bad" type of damage. Simply put, the muscle fibres tear as you work them and as they repair that is when you get the muscle growth and strength for next time you do that exercise. After this damage has occurred, the body's natural response is to flood the area with inflammatory cells to begin the healing process. After several hours of these inflammatory cells making their way to the area, that is the DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) begins to set in when you begin to feel of still and achy. After a few days you should be feeling back to normal again, but with a little extra strength in those muscles after their hard workout. 

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So in order to gain more strength and grow your muscles, a little bit of inflammation is necessary and plays a vital role in the process. The more frequently you exercise, the more your body begins to adapt to the whole process and you'll find that you're a little less sore each time and that you recover a little more quickly each time also. 

Now, onto the good stuff. So you've been exercising now for a few months, you've got your strength back and you're recovering nice and quickly. All that's left to know now is how long you need to keep it up. Simply put, the longer the better, how about forever! You've made it through the worst part now which is just getting started so why not keep it up. You'll appreciate all that extra strength as you get older, and weight bearing exercise specifically is very beneficial for bone density, not to mention all the benefits of maintaining a healthy weight for your heart. 

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Studies have shown that 6 months seems to be the bench mark for getting the best effects from exercise when we are looking at adapting to the healing process and reducing inflammation. Specific trials on elderly patients has shown that regular exercise for less than 6 months had no significant effect on inflammation. However, those who has participated in regular exercise for more than 6 months had a reduction in inflammatory markers. This would suggest that if you stick with your exercise regime, you stand to gain more benefit as time goes by. 

So as we look to make some diet and lifestyle changes to help keep us in good health for the future, we can now see the importance of regular exercise very clearly. Keeping our inflammation down will help slow the ageing process and keep us fit and active as we age. So get out and get active people!!!