Adults in middle age who regularly engage in exercise over the long-term have been found to have much lower levels of inflammation, according to a study published in Circulation magazine.

A comprehensive study by doctors at University College in London plotted the association between inflammatory markers and physical activity. The study covered 4,289 men and women with an average age of 49.2 years. They recorded recommended levels of physical activity which was defined as 2½ hours of moderate to vigorous exercise per week for a period of ten years.

Inflammation was assessed by measuring the levels of serum high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6 at the start of the study and again at the end of the study more than ten years later. 49% of the group adhered to the exercise routine throughout the trial period and at the final assessment they showed lower levels of inflammation than those who rarely adhered to the exercise requirements.

The study concluded that regular physical exercise may be key to preventing chronic inflammation associated with the natural ageing process.

What is Inflammation?

Inflammation is one of the first signs of the body responding to damage within the tissues. There are two types of inflammation: acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is the familiar symptoms of a sprain or bruise. It may be swelling, redness or pain to the tissue surrounding the injury. This acute inflammation is nature’s way of protecting a tender area and actually speeds up the healing process, so it is a good thing.

Chronic inflammation, however, is a response triggered by the body’s immune system which is more gradual and may occur over months or even years. It can creep up on the sufferer unaware yet the results may have long-term effects on the whole health of the person.

Environmental factors can produce chronic inflammation and so can free radicals. Smoking, environmental toxins, polluted air, food additives, chemicals and the natural process of making energy can all create damaging free radicals in the body and the body fights back, causing chronic inflammation. Unfortunately, chronic inflammation has been linked with many serious diseases including arthritis, osteoarthritis and possibly asthma, fibromyalgia, osteoporosis, heart disease and some digestive disorders.

In the case of heart disease, inflammation in the body causes certain protein levels to be raised in the blood. Raised CRP levels have been associated with arterial plaque which narrows the arteries and may lead to serious heart disease or a heart attack.

The presence of inflammatory proteins may also be connected with the development of Alzheimer’s Disease. The presence of chronic inflammation has been shown to disrupt the molecules in the brain and cause abnormal amyloid beta proteins, a likely cause of the development of Alzheimer’s.

Exercise May Maintain Good Health into Old Age

Clearly with so much damage and ill health caused by inflammation, anything that reduces the presence of chronic inflammation, as measured by C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6 levels, will positively improve long-term health and reduce the risk of serious disease.

Now may be a good time to plan a new exercise routine for 2½ hours per week for the next decade and beyond!