You will read a great deal about inflammation on my blog. The reason is that runaway inflammation has become one of the biggest health concerns in modern times. Numerous chronic diseases are linked to inflammation, including coronary heart disease, cancer, diabetes, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and Alzheimer's disease.
We know that proper diet and stress-reduction techniques such as Repose can reduce inflammation. But what about exercise? The findings on exercise seem to be mixed. The bottom line is that inflammation in the body goes up immediately after a workout (not surprising) but the long-term effects of a workout program are generally anti-inflammatory. The one exception is over-training. Doing long sustained workouts daily, as you might if you were training for a marathon or other endurance event, can result in chronic inflammation.
One of the most effective workout strategies, in terms of inflammation, is high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Research has shown that the greatest anti-inflammatory response is associated with short burst of energy expenditure followed by a recovery period. This makes sense, really. Your body seeks homeostasis. Brief, intense periods of exertion cause momentary spikes in inflammation, as the muscles get strained and stored glycogen gets burned. These changes set off a chain of events that help offset the momentary increase in inflammation.
As the exertion continues for long durations, though, muscle tissue gets damaged, which causes your body to trigger a major inflammatory response. Inflammation is just a mechanism for the body to heal itself. Blood rushes to the damaged area, sending white blood cells to remove injured or dead cells, as well as oxygen and nutrients to fuel these cells. For reasons that I will continue to touch upon in future blogs, the conditions of modern life seem to be keeping the body in a constant state of inflammation, which is problematic. It's the epitome of "too much of a good thing."
To increase and maintain vitality, we need to bring the body's inflammatory response into balance. We can do a number of things to achieve this balance; one good place to start is by changing our workout habits. With respect to inflammation, HIIT appears to be preferable to long, sustained workouts or to no workout at all. An added benefit of HIIT is that an effective workout doesn't need to last more than a few minutes. You can improve the efficiency of your workouts and gain all the inflammatory benefits in a half-hour or less!