A New Anti-Inflammatory

Young Woman Running in Snowy Park

The race is on. Big Pharma is keenly aware of the major role that inflammation plays in a wide range of different symptoms and diseases. The market for anti-inflammatory drugs is massive… billions are spent annually by people looking for relief. The problem is that many of the common drugs used to suppress inflammation are associated with intolerable risk and side effects. Drug companies know that newer, better tolerated anti-inflammatory medications will bring huge profits… so, they all have huge research and development budgets directed at new ways to reduce inflammation.

I’d like to propose that spending billions on new, high tech tools to reduce inflammation might not be the best use of our healthcare research dollars. Inflammation is indeed a major factor in many diseases… but we already know how to treat it, and it’s essentially free. You’ve probably heard that a healthy diet can have profound anti-inflammatory effects… but how about exercise? Is movement an anti-inflammatory medicine? New research suggest that it is indeed.

We all know that exercise is good for you. There is no question that exercise is one of the most powerful medicines available to us. Multiple scientific studies, reviews, and reports document the benefits of exercise on various aspects of physical and mental health. As I always say… movement is medicine.

The list of benefits of regular exercise is long… but it just got a little bit longer. A new study performed by researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine has found that exercise appears to have anti-inflammatory benefits.

For their study, researchers had 47 participants walk on treadmills, adjusting the intensity level for each participant based on their level of physical fitness. Blood samples were taken before and after the participants walked on the treadmill for a session of 20 minutes. The researchers analyzed these blood samples, and measured levels of inflammatory markers, including TNF, an important regulator of the body’s inflammatory and immune response.

From their analysis, the researchers found that inflammatory markers were lower after the 20-minute exercise session. This led the study authors to conclude:

“Decreased inflammatory responses during acute exercise may protect against chronic conditions with low-grade inflammation.”

On the results of this study, senior author Suzi Hong further elaborated:

“Our study found one session of about 20 minutes of moderate treadmill exercise resulted in a five percent decrease in the number of stimulated immune cells producing TNF. Knowing what sets regulatory mechanisms of inflammatory proteins in motion may contribute to developing new therapies for the overwhelming number of individuals with chronic inflammatory conditions, including nearly 25 million Americans who suffer from autoimmune diseases.”

Hong added:

“Patients with chronic inflammatory diseases should always consult with their physician regarding the appropriate treatment plan, but knowing that exercise can act as an anti-inflammatory is an exciting step forward in possibilities.”

What is especially exciting about this research is that moderate exercise was found to be so effective. You don’t have to do aggressive exercise to get the anti-inflammatory benefits of movement, which is wonderful, because many sufferers of chronic inflammatory conditions have physical issues which may stand in the way of vigorous exercise. A 20 to 30 minute walk every day can do the trick.

There are so many reasons to exercise — the potential of movement to combat inflammation is just one more great one.

– Dr. Joshua Levitt