Inflammation, a protective mechanism designed to heal the body, has also been associated with disease development. Recently, a study discovered an inverse association between inflammation and long-term physical activity.

Published in Circulation (doi: 10.1161/circulationaha.112.103879), the 10-year study followed 4,289 men and women who were approximately 49 years old at the outset. “Self-reported physical activity and inflammatory markers (serum high-sensitivity C-reactive protein [CRP] and interleukin-6 [IL-6]) were measured at baseline and follow-up,” the authors explained.

The self-reported physical activity questionnaire included 20 questions on the duration and frequency of light-, moderate- and vigorous-intensity physical activities that subjects performed each week. At study completion, about half of participants had met the widely recommended 2.5 hours of weekly physical activity. “Participants who ‘always’ met the physical activity guidelines were more likely to be men, from higher employment grades and [with] lower body mass index,” stated the authors.

Subjects who achieved higher levels of physical activity had lower CRP and IL-6 than less active or inactive individuals. The same applied to those who increased their physical activity levels during the intervention. The study did not indicate whether there was any association between intensity of activity and inflammation markers.

“Regular physical activity is associated with lower markers of inflammation over 10 years of follow-up and thus may be important in preventing the pro-inflammatory state seen with aging,” the authors concluded.