Inflammation is the body’s immune, self-protective and healing response to harmful stimuli, irritants, pathogens and damaged cells. Most inflammation is acute, such as when you sprain your ankle. Symptoms of inflammation include swelling, redness, pain and (sometimes) impaired movement or function.

Acute inflammation targets the damaged area and mobilizes immune cells to promote healing. It usually lasts a few days and ends as healing proceeds. Other causes of acute inflammation include burns, chemical irritants, physical injury, foreign bodies (such as dust and environmental debris), scratches and cuts.

Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, can last months or even years (Chung et al. 2010). In some cases the body is unable to resolve what caused the initial acute inflammation. In other cases, the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissue, mistaking it for something harmful. As humans grow older, chronic systemic inflammation may have degenerative effects that can result in chronic diseases, dementia, atherosclerosis, cancer and osteoporosis (Chung et al. 2010).

To read more about this topic, please see “You May Live Longer Eating a Mediterranean Diet” in the online IDEA Library or in the March 2015 print issue of IDEA Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7.


Chung, H.Y., et al. 2010. Molecular inflammation: Underpinnings of aging and age-related diseases. Ageing Research Review, 8 (1), 18-30.

Len Kravitz, PhD

Len Kravitz, PhD is a professor and program coordinator of exercise science at the University of New Mexico where he recently received the Presidential Award of Distinction and the Outstanding Teacher of the Year award. In addition to being a 2016 inductee into the National Fitness Hall of Fame, Dr. Kravitz was awarded the Fitness Educator of the Year by the American Council on Exercise. Just recently, ACSM honored him with writing the 'Paper of the Year' for the ACSM Health and Fitness Journal.

Leave a Comment

When you buy something using the retail links in our content, we may earn a small commission. IDEA Health and Fitness Association does not accept money for editorial reviews. Read more about our Terms & Conditions and our Privacy Policy.