Bust a Move

Taming inflammation goes beyond dietary choices. Certain lifestyle habits and behaviors can contribute significantly to inflammation management.

Lack of physical activity is the primary contributor to excessive weight gain and subsequent obesity. As you may recall, overweight and obesity are associated with chronic inflammation and increased disease risk. Unfortunately, only 22 percent of American adults satisfy the recommended levels of physical activity, 60 percent are not consistently active, and 25 percent are completely inactive.

The anti-inflammatory effects of regular, moderate exercise help to lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and obesity. Active individuals possess lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), indicating less inflammation.

The anti-inflammatory effect of exercise may be related to the increase in antioxidant production that occurs as a body becomes more fit. The extra internal antioxidants destroy free radicals associated with chronic inflammation.

Individuals who exercise regularly are better equipped to deal with life's stressors and tend to experience a better sense of well-being, improved mood, and enhanced self-esteem.

There are three key components that you should include in your workout routine to ensure that your time is well spent.

Aerobic Exercise

Any exercise that gets your heart pumping and your glands sweating without taking your breath away is considered “aerobic” exercise. For maximum effectiveness, aerobic exercise should be performed three to five times a week for 20 to 60 minutes. To ensure that you are moving at the proper pace, you should be able to carry on a conversation while exercising.

If you are huffing and puffing excessively, you're working too hard, which increases your risk of soreness and injury, reduces motivation, and causes you to burn more carbohydrates and less fat. On the other hand, if you can sing “Achy Breaky Heart” when you're exercising, you're not working hard enough and won't get the results you may expect. Great aerobic exercises include walking, jogging, cycling, aerobic dance, stair climbing, the elliptical trainer, and swimming.

Strengthening Exercise

After age 25 the “muscle robber” tries to attack the human body. If allowed access to your body, you will lose approximately a half pound of muscle each year to this thief. Muscle is very active tissue with high energy needs. Body fat, on the other hand, is a very lazy, sedentary tissue. Knowing this, your best bet is to gain muscle and lose fat in order to increase the number of calories your body burns, even at rest.

The best way to do this is by strength training two to three times a week on nonconsecutive days. You should aim for eight to 12 repetitions for each of your major muscle groups, including the front and back of your legs, your abdominal and lower back muscles, your chest and upper back, and the front and back of your upper arms.

Flexibility Exercise

You don't have to bend your body like a pretzel to benefit from flexibility training, but stretching can make or break your workout routine. When you do not include stretching as part of your workout routine, your risk of injury increases significantly. If you become injured, you can't exercise. If you can't exercise, your weight loss or maintenance efforts will be hampered. Also, stretching makes your muscles longer, giving a leaner appearance to your body.

Although stretching before exercise is certainly recommended, the best time to stretch is after exercise when your muscles are warm and pliable. Stretch the major muscle groups mentioned above in the strength-training section, especially the ones you will be using or used during exercise. Hold each stretch for 15 to 60 seconds, stretch to the point of mild tension, and avoid bouncing.

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