The Exercise Prescription Part 8 – Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Exercise

Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Exercise

Chronic inflammation is the underlying cause of a number of age-associated chronic diseases.

From auto-immune disorders to cardiovascular issues to cancer to diabetes to dementia to all-cause mortality. Chronic inflammation has a role in developing many of these diseases of aging particularly when coupled with a sedentary lifestyle.

Regular exercises reduce pro-inflammatory proteins or cytokines. These are things that can be measured on serum blood studies. Likewise, an increase in anti-inflammatory cytokines can be seen with exercise.  To be technical for a moment, a cytokine known as IL-6 (interleukin-6) plays a major role in this decrease in systemic inflammation. Often IL-6 is seen as a pro-inflammatory cytokine when in the presence of another cytokine called TNF-a (tumor necrosis factor – alpha) – something seen in severe infections known as sepsis. Muscle contraction releases IL-6, and when not in presence of TNF-a acts as an anti-inflammatory cytokine which also has endocrine like effects by stimulating fat breakdown for energy metabolism. In addition, IL-6 in this environment stimulates other anti-inflammatory cytokines such as IL-10 to reduce systemic inflammation.

As a result, both single and repeated exercise events result in reduced systemic inflammation. Muscle cells increase production of anti-inflammatory proteins and thus can be seen as an anti-inflammatory organ when utilized.

This should help communicate the importance of exercise in living a high functioning and high-quality life. In particular, when it comes to preventing diseases of aging.

Here is a brief list of diseases associated with increased inflammation and physical inactivity:


Inflammatory bowel disease

Heart and vascular disease



Multiple sclerosis

Dementia/Alzheimer’s disease

High blood pressure

Sleep apnea

Cancer (breast, esophageal, prostate, colon, liver for example)



Chronic tendonitis such as rotator cuff tendinitis

All-cause mortality

 To move is to live.