Inflammation: What is it and How Does Physical Movement Help?
Why does the term inflammation come up so often lately whenever we are talking about healing or achieving better health? What does it mean and why does it matter? For years I thought that all we had to be concerned with was excess fat or water retention, especially since they both make us feel like we have “swelling”, but apparently there’s something else that gets in the way of feeling and looking our best: inflammation.
Medical research has uncovered much knowledge about the crucial and complex role of inflammation, and it has practically become a buzz word within holistic and integrative medicine circles. The scary thing is that it could be running rampant inside of us, without us realizing it or feeling its effects immediately or directly. And while it’s in progress it can become the foundation for numerous diseases. So it’s a good idea to understand what inflammation is, what causes it and what we can do to keep it in check.
One thing I found revealing over the course of my research is that there are two sides to the phenomenon of inflammation. On the one hand, it is the body’s natural response to the need for healing. When there is an injury, the body has the innate intelligence to “come to the rescue” with an inflammatory response. First, producing pain, redness, swelling, heat, and tissue destruction, as part of the repair and rebuild process to heal and regenerate itself. This is what is known as acute inflammation. The effectiveness and efficacy of this healthy healing response process are closely dependent on one other physical factor, movement.
Physical Movement has anti-inflammatory effects, and therefore, works in concert with acute inflammation to keep the inflammatory response in check and balanced.
Without movement, acute inflammation has nothing to counteract it and therefore can show its not so “healthy” side when it becomes chronic, low-level inflammation. When inflammation is continuous and chronic, it is usually more difficult to detect, and when allowed to persist it becomes damaging to tissue, detrimental to health, and can severely impact the quality of life. There is a growing list of diseases that are linked to inflammation. Cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s have all been shown to be linked to or exacerbated by imbalanced (chronic) inflammation.
The good news is that research and study in this area continue to give evidence to the fact that physical activity (movement) is a great proactive way to balance out the inflammatory response and keep chronic inflammation at bay. Here’s where exercise comes in. Unfortunately, physical movement used to be a more integral part of human lives. It is what the body is meant to do. Our modern industrialized world has sadly dictated our current more sedentary lifestyles, dramatically limiting our movement, and hence the proper inflammatory/anti-inflammatory interplay. The modern-day answer to this issue, exercise.
Exercise keeps us moving and research has shown that certain specific exercise techniques get muscles to release signaling molecules that deliver the anti-inflammatory mechanisms needed to repair, heal, and keep inflammation under control. The even better news is that these same techniques increase fat-burning and optimize hormone metabolism.
The most effective exercise techniques include:
- Combined resistance training and aerobic exercise within the same workout
- Hybrid or Compound exercises that combine two or more traditional types of exercise in one movement. An example would be combining a squat exercise with a shoulder press.
- Exercises that helps clear energetic blockages throughout the body:
- Functional Exercises focused on “Mobility,” promoting functional movement of the body and in particular, the core/spine.
- Qigong and other Healing Arts practices provide great healing benefits by promoting energy flow, detoxification and nurturing the body.