Sedentary Lifestyle and inflammation - Get Moving
By Wendy Romig, DCN
Whether children, adults or senior citizens, physical activity and movement are critical for health and well-being. Despite the endless amounts of research and evidence showing the benefits of movement, a large percentage of the US population still falls short of the recommended level of exercise in a week. Many factors including sedentary lifestyles, desk jobs, busy lives and limiting health conditions contribute to the problem, but an important consideration is the physiological effects of inactivity. Now that winter is in full swing pushing many indoors, finding ways to keep the body moving during those dark, cold days is critical.
Chronic inflammation has become an epidemic of the developed world and is the result of several factors including diet and lifestyle. According to an article published in Behavioral Neurology Journal, our hunter-gather ancestors experienced significantly lower levels of inflammation, particularly in terms of the duration of inflammation present in the body. Where these earlier humans may have experienced up to 40 days of acute inflammation, present day pathologies linger for months, and even years at times, leading to the onset of chronic disease like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Research has been conducted to measure the levels of certain inflammation markers with long durations of inactivity in newly diagnosed diabetics. Results showed that sedentary lifestyles caused an elevation in the marker IL-6 but increases in activity actually lowered another inflammatory marker c-reactive protein in diabetics. In fact, this research published in the journal of Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiac Disease in 2014 points out that each hour of added movement in a day decreased the inflammatory marker c-reactive protein by 24% over a six-month period.
There is an important correlation between exercise and inflammation levels in humans and some researchers suggest that our muscles are the “forgotten organ” of the immune system. Physical activity and engagement of the body’s musculature actually activates anti-inflammatory immune function. And more specifically, exercise before eating, can lower inflammation brought on by dietary intakes of certain foods like fats, meats and simple carbs.
Knowing the inflammatory effects of a sedentary life, the question remains, how can individuals bring more movement and activity into their daily lives? An article published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity suggests that even 30 minutes of concentrated daily activity may not be sufficient in counteracting the effects of sitting all day.
If you’re not one to spend hours at the gym every week, there is hope. Just simply standing up, walking around your house or office for a few minutes every hour can significantly reduce the levels of inflammation in your body. While this does not replace dedicated cardiovascular and weight-bearing exercise, your body will likely soon feel the positive effects of more movement in your day.