Research studies show a combination of exercise and calorie reduction can lower chronic inflammation for improved health.
- A program including exercise and calorie reduction can reduce chronic inflammation, which is tied to numerous health risks.
- Calorie reduction alone, while effective in weight loss, is not effective in reducing chronic inflammation.
- Staying physically active increases the effectiveness of exercise and calorie reduction when trying to reduce chronic inflammation.
Combining exercise and calorie restriction is a main driver for weight loss, but it’s the pairing that can actually help you reap more benefits beyond the scale. Two recent meta-analyses suggest that a combination of both exercise and calorie restriction is the best strategy for reducing low-grade systemic, or chronic, inflammation with lasting effects on your health.
A meta-analysis published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition reviewed 32 studies totaling over 2,100 participants who were overweight or obese. Researchers found that the combination of exercise and calorie restriction was significantly more effective than eating fewer calories alone in reducing pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are molecules secreted by immune cells in response to threats like stress, injuries, or viruses.
While some degree of inflammation is beneficial, too much is considered a health hazard since it can disrupt your body systems, according to William Li, M.D., author of Eat to Beat Disease: The New Science of How Your Body Can Heal Itself.
“Chronic inflammation has a ripple effect that can lead to numerous issues, including poor glucose regulation and fat cell growth,” he says. “Implementing strategies that address inflammation specifically can give you a ripple effect in the other direction, creating positive effects throughout the body.”
Exploring the effects of calorie intake and exercise habits on inflammation originates from weight loss strategies and their associated health benefits. While weight loss plays an important role in improving chronic inflammation, fat loss may be the determining factor.
Fat tissue releases the cytokines related to chronic inflammation and the exercise-calorie-reduction combo can help to reduce body fat. While restricting calories alone may help weight loss, the meta-analysis showed that only when combined with exercise was there a significant decrease in pro-inflammatory cytokines linked to health risk.
Pro-inflammatory cytokine levels increase in the body during acute inflammation (sick/injured) but that’s a sign of a healthy immune system. Where you get into trouble is when you have chronic and consistent low-level inflammation. This chronic inflammation is tied to health risks such as metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and loss of muscle tissue.
Another meta-analysis published in Frontiers in Physiology further supported the protective benefits of exercise. This one compared 23 studies with nearly 1,200 participants. Individuals who participated in regular physical activity significantly improved their pro-inflammatory cytokines when participating in the intervention including both exercise and calorie reduction than those who were sedentary. Being physically active and staying active increases your chances that exercise and diet will be effective in reducing chronic inflammation.
Whether you are on a weight loss journey or trying to tackle chronic inflammation, the keys to boosting long-lasting health and found through consistent exercise and nutrition.