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20 minutes can serve for anti-Inflammatory
Viruses cause inflammation.
An over-exuberant inflammatory response characterises both coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
Moderate exercise helps fight the inflammation.
In particular, exercise fights age-related inflammation. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and several other chronic diseases - are now known to be strongly linked to inflammatory processes.
Exercising has been found to reduce chronic low-level inflammation i.e. exercise keeps us healthy and helps minimise the negative effects of age-related inflammation.
Older people benefit as well
For along time it was not known if exercise could benefit the inflammation response of older people. Some thought that exercise might stress older people and raise their level of inflammation.
However, a research paper published in 2007 in the American Journal of Lifestyle showed that exercise had anti-inflammatory effects in healthy older subjects - subjects with coronary heart failure and coronary artery disease, breast cancer survivors, subjects taking beta-blockers, and those with metabolic syndrome.
The researchers concluded therefore, that neither age nor health status, appear to limit the ability of exercise training to reduce inflammation.
That's good news!
What kind of exercise is best?
The other good news was that the research showed that older people (65+) who exercised could boost their anti-inflammatory response to a higher level than younger people who were not active (here, Figure 3).
What kind of exercise is best?
Some research studied intense exercise e.g. cycling exercise (80% VO2 max; 30 minutes). That's too hard for most of us, and not something we can do regularly.
In 2017, research published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, investigated the benefits of 20-minute exercise sessions on the body’s immune system.
Led by Suzi Hong, Ph.D., from the Department of Psychiatry and the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health (University of California-San Diego School of Medicine) researchers found that moderate exercise resulted in improvements in systemic inflammation.
Our study shows a workout session does not actually have to be intense to have anti-inflammatory effects. Twenty minutes to half an hour of moderate exercise, including fast walking, appears to be sufficient. Feeling like a workout needs to be at a peak exertion level for a long duration can intimidate those who suffer from chronic inflammatory diseases and could greatly benefit from physical activity.
Walking is a convenient and effective option
In January 2020, a paper in the Frontiers in Physiology concluded that "moderate exercise or vigorous exercise with appropriate resting periods can achieve maximum benefit".
The 2020 study tested people using treadmills.
At the moment it's not a good idea to go to the gym, so a treadmill is out unless you are lucky enough own one.
Walking is a good option.
Walking is always something worth doing anyway, so all the more reason to make it part of your regular routine.
A 20 minute walk is just a couple of kilometres, or miles (roughly).
I make it a point to walk 5km every day whether I do other exercise or not. Right now, I am not going to the gym, so I run more.
If I run in the morning then I walk 5km in the evening, and vice versa.
In any case, walking this distance every day should be a minimum daily exercise when we are older. More exercise ("higher levels of physical activity") are associated with lower markers of inflammation - so ramp it up!
A fast walk, as recommended by the 2017 study, is at about 100 steps per minute.
Ramp it up - walking progressions
Here are some progressions that you can apply to walking-as-exercise:
Adding these progressions will raise the intensity, and, according to the current science, this will increase the anti-inflammatory effects of exercise for you.
Anti-inflammatory is a complex word - part of the meaning is "a reduced incidence of infection", and walking regularly will bring you that benefit. That's something we should all seek to achieve at the moment.
Outdoor walking - contact with nature - also reduces our stress, which we can all enjoy..
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Since I was diagnosed at 50 with Type 2 diabetes I've been learning how to do bone-building fitness training which lowers my age. You can too. It's your choice. Walter