I was reading the AARP November 2019 Bulletin the other day and an article about inflammation written by Mike Zimmerman popped out at me. It said that almost every critical disease of aging is linked to inflammation. When our body’s inflammation levels increase, so does our chance of disease.
In the exercise world, we’re used to hearing about inflammation due to muscle strains and joint sprains. These acute, short term inflammations can usually be solved with ice and rest. Inflammation is the body’s natural way of providing the nutrients and chemicals needed to help repair any damage. Once the damage has been healed, then the inflammation goes away. As a fitness trainer, I think it’s important for us to choose exercise activities that won’t risk causing our body too much inflammation. For example, playing 30 minutes of intense basketball will cause more inflammation to our body than 30 minutes of intense lap swimming. As I’ve gotten older, I’m choosing more exercises like lap swimming that allow me to feel good the day after versus the exercises that keep me sore and my body inflamed for 2-3 days.
What’s even worse than acute, short term inflammation is chronic inflammation caused by weight gain, psychological stress, poor nutrition, exposure to chemicals or allergens, an autoimmune disorder, or a chronic disease that keeps our body in a continual state of stress. Eating foods that promote inflammation, not sleeping well, and living fast and stressful lives create inflammation. I’m sure it’s not a surprise to hear that foods that are deep-fried, processed and low in fiber promote inflammation. Belly fat also increases our inflammation levels because of the visceral fat building up around our intestines and internal organs. Having a consistently bad attitude, feeling helpless and living stressed out can also cause inflammation. I’ve often said in my fitness trainings that when we exercise the choice to think positive and happy thoughts, we can make ourselves feel better. And it is a choice to be a positive thinker.
If you want to reduce your body’s chronic inflammation, try eating whole-grain foods that have healthy fiber. Eat dark-colored fruits and vegetables because they contain antioxidants. Yogurt is good to eat because it has healthy bacteria to keep our gut bacteria healthy. Don’t forget to eat the healthy fats found in foods like olive oil, avocado, nuts, and fish because they contain omega 3 fatty acids. Going to church is also good because it often stimulates us to pray and meditate which can help to reduce inflammation. Exercises like yoga also help to reduce inflammation.
The four main causes of inflammation are contracting an infection from outside the body that’s hard to kill, our genetics, our environment (pollution, air and water quality), and our lifestyle choices. We can control our lifestyle choices. Try to make good lifestyle choices to help reduce your body’s inflammation. Here’s to your great health.
Jonathan Souder is the Fitness Director at Manor House, an Acts Retirement-Life Community in Seaford, Delaware. This column appeared in the December 5, 2019 edition of the Seaford Star.