Inflammation + Movement

I am so excited to write this post. Mostly because I want to see how many times I can say “sitting is the new smoking” before I get annoyed with myself.

This post is about how to increase movement throughout the day, combined with decreasing low levels of inflammation, as I think the two go hand in hand. Oftentimes I think it’s easy to put health into distinct categories of which you can check off boxes: good diet, 1 hour exercise per day, 8 hours sleep per night. Even just typing that felt robotic. There are nuances that fill out the picture of health, and it’s not only subjected to hitting an exercise quota and eating a kale salad. In terms of preventing chronic, low-level inflammation, it all comes down to what you’re consistently eating and how you’re consistently moving.

What you’re eating:

An anti-inflammatory diet is recommended as: “balanced 40:30:30″ of carbohydrate, fat, and protein as a form of “gene silencing” (Sears, 2015). I’m not sure I am entirely on board with this ratio, as I think different diets honestly work differently for different people – my biochemistry, for example, is totally different than someone elses!

Anyways! The point of an anti-inflammatory diet is to turn off the genes associated with silent / chronic inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements are recommended at the level of 2–3 g of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) per day. Furthermore, a diet rich in colorful, non-starchy vegetables contribute adequate amounts of polyphenols to help inhibit inflammatory markers and activate AMP kinase (this is the known as the master metabolic regulating enzyme – associated with improving metabolism. (Sears, 2015). Adding in things like curcumin, flax seed, fiber, avoiding common allergens and healing the gut are also recommended (click on the links for more in depth blog posts about those things). Plants + good fats + good sources of organic, grass fed protein + more plants + fermented foods / pre and probiotics + lots of water. 

Speaking of omega-3s, fats are needed as part of an anti-inflammatory diet because the same hormone that makes you feel full after a fatty meal (cholecystokinin) might also prevent immune cells from mistakenly attacking food proteins as if they were foreign invaders. Less immune attacking = less inflammation. Eating fat-rich foods (think avocado, olives, nuts, flax seed, coconut oil, ghee, butter) triggers the production of a molecule which stimulates both digestion and satiation (cholecystokinin again). This means that eating fat makes you feel more satisfied from meals, doesn’t result in blood sugar spikes, and decreases inflammation!!! Fat is your friend!!!

While exercise does wonders for body, mind, soul (more on that later), it is actually a form of acute inflammation. To prevent the transition from acute to chronic inflammation, adequate nutrition (low consumption of saturated and trans fats and glucose, and adequate amounts of: folate, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, vitamin E, and zinc) and slow movement are needed for recovery. The top anti-inflammatory foods consist of: leafy greens, blueberries, tea (matcha is the most nutrient-rich green tea), fermented vegetables and traditionally cultured foods (kefir, natto, kimchee, miso, tempeh, pickles, sauerkraut, olives), shiitake mushrooms, garlic, herbs, spices, omega-3 acids, and fats.

Chronic inflammation is low-grade and systemic, often silently damaging your tissues over an extended period of time.  Diet accounts for about 80 percent of the health benefits you reap from a healthy lifestyle, and keeping inflammation in check is a major part of these benefits. It’s important to realize that dietary components can either trigger or prevent inflammation from taking root in your body. This means amping up the foods listed above, and laying low on added / processed sugars, trans fats, refined grains, and omega-6 fatty acids (vegetable oils like canola, safflower, grapeseed, soybean, margarine, and shortening). 

How you’re moving:

In terms of exercise, the best kind for decreasing inflammation is high intensity interval training. This stimulates a protein called myokine, which increases both insulin sensitivity and glucose use in side muscles. They also increase fat burning, and prevent the release of inflammatory cytokines. Exercise reduces levels of TNF and other cytokines, confers protection against cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, increases vagus nerve activity, and confers protection against the development of atherosclerosis. It is possible that the mechanism of these exercise effects is at least in part attributable to exercise-induced increases in cholinergic antiinflammatory pathway activity.

In one study, for every 60 minute increase in physical activity per day, COPD patients with elevated CRP had a 31% reduced risk of all-cause mortality (Loprinzi & Walker, 2016). Physical activity, therefore, may help to promote survival among COPD patients, particularly those with elevated inflammation.

A single burst of HIIT training or 60 minutes of isolated movement, however, doesn’t quite get you to what you need for a day of movement. According to one study, prolonged sedentary time was independently associated with deleterious health outcomes regardless of physical activity (Biswas et al., 2015). You guessed it: Sitting. Is. The. New. Smoking.

The average American adult spends about 10 hours each day sitting, and research shows that this level of inactivity cannot even be counteracted with a 60-minute workout at the end of each day. According to some, near-continuous movement is necessary throughout the day, aiming to get out of your chair every 50 minutes. The goal is to get between 7,000-10,000 steps per day, while sitting no longer than 3 hours per day.

The type of movement, in fact, may not entirely matter. One study, for example, revealed that women who either walked or exercised vigorously at least 2.5 hours per week had a risk reduction of approximately 30 percent (Manson et al., 2002). This same study also assessed the relation between hours spent sitting and spent lying down or sleeping, and the risk of cardiovascular events. The relative risk of cardiovascular disease was 1.38 among women who spent 12 to 15 hours per day lying down or sleeping and 1.68 among women who spent at least 16 hours per day sitting, as compared with those who spent less than 4 hours per day (Manson et al., 2002).

Yoga is also recommended. In one study, expert yogis had serum levels of IL-6 (an inflammatory marker) 41% lower than that of novices (Kiecolt-Glaser et al., 2010). The novice yogis also had 4.75 times higher CRP levels than that of experts (another marker for stress and inflammation).

8 ways to decrease inflammation:

  1. Decrease stress via behavioral modification, meditation (I’m a personal fan of the Headspace app), hypnosis (try the HelloMind app), and cognitive and relaxation therapies. Stress and pessimism shorten telomeres and decrease telomerase – stress turns on inflammatory markers
  2. Do fun stuff – relaxing, pleasant experiences reduce inflammatory responses, promote normalization of neuroendocrine status, and allow humoral and cellular elements of immune system to function competently. Learn more about how to decrease stress here.
  3. Sleep – When you’re not getting enough sleep, there’s a decreased firing of anti inflammatory pathways and an increase in intestinal permeability (learn more about that here and here).
  4. Take a probiotic – probiotics improve symptoms in IBS and normalize imbalances with inflammatory cytokine ratios. 
  5. Decrease consumption of refined carbs and omega-6 fatty acids – Sears and Ricordie (2011) report increases of inflammation due to higher consumption of refined carbohydrates and refined vegetables oils rich in omega-6 fatty acids as well as decreased consumption of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids and polyphenols (plants!!!) can inhibit toll-like receptors (inflammatory markers) or activate anti-inflammatory gene transcription factors.
  6. Do yoga / stay active!! I personally love CorePower yoga and FlyWheel classes!
  7. Find something that makes you excited to get up and move! My bulletproof coffee is what gets me out of bed in the morning (I can’t believe I am seriously uttering these words. 24 going on 67). Learn more about ghee in coffee here.
  8. Try to get in your 10K steps a day, since after all, sitting is the new smoking. I love my Withings Activite watch, as it tracks not only steps, but also sleep. I know this is sometimes hard when you’re at a desk job all day, so I looked to you guys for help!

Here’s what you guys said!

  • “I just shut my door and do 25 jumping Jacks, push ups and tricep dips on my desk, and squats and lunges throughout the day. And I try to take walk breaks or take my work calls outside so I can walk the blocks. Also my coworkers already think I’m crazy so I have no qualms about doing my exercises with my door open.” –@rungry_nola_rd
  • “going on a walk after dinner is perfect. Just vacuuming or cleaning right after as well to get your blood pumping. The setting a timer for 30 m and getting outside or at least up every 30 min” –@simplholistic
  • “Stairs. I literally climb up and down the stairs in the hospital for 10 mins on my lunch break and take the stairs always / get up and use the water fountain and then restroom all the damn time.” –@katmariekelly
  • “squats in the shower!” –@caitlinlewiss
  • “stairs always. I have a standing desk at work and every 30 minutes I try and stand up for 30 minutes. If I haven’t exercised that day, while watching a tv show during a commercial break, do some type of exercise – usually yoga, stretch, lunges or crunches.” –@balancewithb
  • “If I’m at a desk, setting a timer to go fill my water glass every hour helps me stay conscious of how much I’m sitting. I also like to go for a walk while I talk to a friend on the phone. Movement + fun chatting!” –
  • “Stand up and down 10 times every 30-45 minutes. When I have to use the restroom, I use the one furthest away (if I can make it) –@mybigfitlife
  • “park far from the door, print to printers that are far from you desk, always take the stairs, eat lunch at your desk before your actual lunch time so you can get outside and walk (if the weather is bad, go to a local store – hey, target!), drink more water (this is twofold – walk to further water coolers and farther bathrooms to pee – bonus points for going up air down a flight of stairs), take a lap around the building when you’re frustrated or need a quick break, bring workout clothes if it’s nice and hit a trail on your way home. And this is a little different but talk about your passions to be more active with coworkers! I’ve made some really great friends based on our mutual love for being outside and have learned about some cool trails near work I can go toad we meet up sometimes to do trails together. –@kashisays
  • “Walking the floor – if you work in a building walk the floor and fill your water bottle. Make a goal to do this 3 times throughout the day and to finish that water by the time you go for your next walk. Drink more water plus walking. Two birds one stone!”-@icameinlikeakettleball



Biswas, A., Oh, P.I., Faulkner, G.E., Bajaj, r.R., Silver, M.A., Mitchell, M.S., & Alter, D.A. (2015) Sedentary time and its association with risk for disease incidence,mo reality, and hospitalization in adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Annals of Internal Medicine, 162(2), 123-132. doi: 10.7326/M14-1651

Kiecolt-Glaser, J.K., Christian, L., Preston, H., Houts, C.R., Malarkey, W.B., Emergy, C.F., & Glaser, R. (2010). Stress, inflammation, and yoga practice. Psychosomatic Medicine, 72(2), 113. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181cb9377

Loprinzi, P.D. & Walker, J.F. (2016). Increased daily movement associates with reduced mortality among COPD patients having systemic inflammation. International Journal of Clinical Practice, 70(3), 286-291. doi: 10.1111/ijcp.12778

Manson, J.E., Greenland, P., LaCroix, A.Z., Stefanick, M.L., Mouton, C.P., Oberman, A., Perrri, M.G., … & Siscovick, D.S. (2002). Walking compared with vigorous exercise for the prevention of cardiovascular events in women. The New England Journal of Medicine, 347, 716-725, doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa021067

Sears, B. (2015). Anti-inflammatory diets. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 34(1), 14-21. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2015.1080105

Sears, B. & Ricordi, C. (2011). Anti-inflammatory nutrition as aa pharmacological approach to treat obesity. Journal of Obesity, 2011, 431985. doi: 10.1155/2011/431985

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9 Responses

  1. Just wanted to say that I love your blog and I love how you site your sources at the end of your posts! I’m all about some evidence based practice. Have you posted the article you talked about on your instagram story the other day about the gut-vagus nerve connection? Would love to read it. Thanks!

  2. Such a great article! Opened my eyes to so many ideas and possibilities, thank you for this!!! Btw, I love ❤️ your insta as well

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