Chronic inflammation and exercise

I’m sure a lot of us reading this article right now have had an injury in the past that has settled or has persisted over time, and a lot of times you find yourselves asking why is this still going on or what else can I do for that injury to settle completely.

I am also aware that there are a lot of mixed messages given to us these days whether or not to exercise so that we could potentially improve or worsen the symptoms.

While this is a huge area of discussion, our focus for this blog will be on how we can identify chronic inflammation and what can we actually do to reduce the symptoms, just because it’s never impossible!

Let’s go back and review our high-school biology basics…

Inflammation is our body’s very natural protective and beneficial response to any injury in order to repair the tissues and return to its previous healthy state as much as possible and as quickly as possible.

All the tissues in our body whether they are muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, bones, cartilage or organs, are made up of different types of cells and hence have their own inflammatory and healing processes.

Acute inflammation occurs suddenly and is short in duration, characterised by redness, heat, swelling and pain after an injury for e.g. an ankle sprain.

Chronic inflammation refers to slow tissue healing that persists for a long period of time. It occurs when our body fails to remove or stop all the processes that caused the acute inflammation in the first place. This is where our immune system has forgotten to switch off the inflammation button in our bodies.

The reason for these low-grade, persistent reactions, regardless of the mechanism of injury, could be due to both intrinsic factors that include posture, physical mal-alignments, muscle weakness, stress, sleep deprivation, nutrition, age, gender, hormones, alcohol consumption, smoking; and extrinsic factors that include nature of occupation, repetitive movements, changes in climate and temperatures, reduced physical activity or lack of exercise.

How do I know I have chronic inflammation?

While an acute ankle sprain with lots of swelling at the start can progress into that focal chronic swelling leading to ongoing pain and instability, chronic inflammation is not only that. It can also occur from within.

Therefore, conditions such as chronic neck, shoulder and low back pain, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, chronic respiratory (e.g. bronchitis, asthma), heart (e.g. atherosclerosis), digestive (e.g. irritable bowel disease) and metabolic (diabetes) conditions, and many more, are amongst the most commonly treated and managed as a result of chronic inflammatory processes, with a lot of inflammatory markers and mediators floating around in the individual’s system who are suffering from them.

Signs and Symptoms of Chronic Inflammation…

  • Feeling and looking really tired all the time
  • Irritating tummy symptoms like gas, bloating, diarrhea or even constipation
  • Disrupted sleeping pattern or waking due to pain
  • Frustration and unmotivated towards exercise
  • Mood swings
  • Skin changes e.g. eczema, redness, acne, etc.
  • Raised blood sugar levels
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Changes in appetite

Note: All of us are very different and that’s what makes us unique in our own special way, however, the above are listed possible signs and symptoms which are not exhaustive, are noticed quite a lot in the clinic and are to be used as a guide to assist you in seeking appropriate help from your medical practitioner.

How is exercise relevant to chronic inflammation?

We all know that exercise is good for us and countless researches have also shown and proven in writing that it is the most effective way to reduce pain, strengthen muscles and prevent injuries. But how are they relevant to chronic conditions?

Think about the time you went for a walk or run in the park, took your dogs for a walk or strolled along the beach and coming home feeling so refreshed and relaxed that you want to do it again the next day!

Happy hormones such as endorphins serotonin are released when we exercise, that leaves us happy and feeling far away from pain. I know that’s baby stuff, but at the same time, it also reduces the levels of adrenaline and cortisol, which are also meant to be beneficial hormones, however, add to our dilemma when we take our on-the-go lifestyle into consideration!

You may be rolling your eyes going, duh.

But when it comes to chronic inflammation, put your hand up if you at once rest your face in your hands and think, “I don’t even know what to do, that beach walk left me in pain for days, it’s too painful to exercise, I’m sore for days after a struggling session…”

There is a lot of evidence to support the fact that moderate exercises have shown to improve symptoms of chronic inflammation by lowering the amount of inflammatory markers and C-reactive protein, as opposed to strenuous exercises in the long run (Beavers et al, 2010).

So simply, here’s what to do…

  • Speak to your medical practitioner about your interest in exercising, and they will be able to do all your baseline checks for you.
  • Don’t know where to start? The key is to start small to be able to achieve big and maintain it. Pick an activity that you would like to do the most, for example, swimming, walking, bike riding, etc.
  • Use resources around you, whether it is the leisure centre close by, community centre, clinics that offer exercise classes such as clinical Pilates at a physiotherapy clinic, etc.
  • Prefer to do things yourself? Not a problem! Keep a diary, note down the amount of time you can walk, walk in a pool, swim or ride before you start to struggle. Do it again the next day at half the amount of time and increase it a little at a time every other day.
  • Recommended options that would be safe for you:
  • Hydrotherapy: Exercises performed in a warm pool, which can be catered to any conditions for rehabilitation.
  • Clinical Pilates: Focuses on core strengthening and whole body stability.
  • Balance and Strengthening: Exercises based on functional movements that you require doing your activities of daily living, e.g. mini-squats/squats would mimic a sit to stand movement, a lunge would allow you to modify your lifting by widening your stance.
  • Gym-based program: Tailored to suit every individual to overcome chronic pain and inflammation.

Chronic pain can be overwhelming, however, I believe that all of us suffering from this broad-spectrum condition can overcome this to be able to lead a pain-free lifestyle!

At Enhance Physiotherapy, we offer all the options mentioned above at our clinics, and they are tailored specifically to you by our lovely physiotherapists!

If you feel that you’re not sure what is right for you, you’re most welcome to pop in to see us and ask as many questions as you like, as we will be more than happy to answer them for you and so that you are able to get the help you need!

How to stay or become motivated to exercise?

Correct me if I’m wrong but I think it safe to say that almost everyone has had those days where you can’t find the  motivation to do anything; whether its going to work, doing the house work or a common one – exercising.

In today’s day and age with every one being so busy with life, usually exercise is the first activity to be lost. I know personally there have been many times when I’ve gotten home from a busy day at work and have wanted to skip my daily exercise routine. Some days I have skipped it only to regret it later but on the days I push myself and dig deep I always feel so much better for it! But in saying this you should always listen to your body, so if you’re having a day where your body is too tired to exercise or mentally you feel too fatigued then maybe a rest day is for you (as long as this doesn’t happen everyday).

We all know how good exercise is for us and how good it can make us feel, so why should it be the first to go when life gets busy and tough. Exercise should be an essential part of life as it can help;

  • Reduce stress
  • Improve your mood
  • Help with weight loss or weight maintenance
  • Maintain strong healthy muscles and bones
  • Boost energy levels
  • Reduce the risk of chronic disease
  • Skin health
  • Improve sleep quality
  • Reduce chronic pain 

The list goes on… that’s why we as physiotherapists strive to motivate and empower all clients and individuals to participate in regular physical activity. Below I am going to provide some tips on how to achieve this!

Find the right exercise for you

Not everyone is going to enjoy the same exercise so it’s important that you find the right one for you. Exercise doesn’t have to be sport or running, it can be anything that elevates your heart rate. If you’re someone who hasn’t found the right one then why not go trial new sports, gyms or even classes/programs. Nowadays so many gyms and classes offer free trials before signing up, so it’s as easy as finding a place and going in to try it.

Exercise classes

One that I have found particularly handy for motivation is joining a class. If you have a a class, particularly ones that you need to book in for it holds you accountable to go. I personally also find that having someone tell me what to do means I don’t have to worry and think about what exercises to do; all I need to do is pick a class and rock up, it’s that simple!

At enhance we offer a range of classes and programs that are catered for all ages and levels of fitness;

  • Hydrotherapy
  • Pilates
  • Yoga
  • Enhanced living
  • One on one gym visits

Go first thing in the morning or first thing after work 

You’re either a morning person or you’re not. If you are a morning person then why not set your alarm slightly earlier and get up and go straight to the gym. This might mean having your clothes ready next to your bed, so that when that alarm goes off all you need to do is get up, put your clothes on and go!

For those who aren’t morning go getters (you’ll know who you are) then pack your exercise clothes and take them to work with you, that way when it’s time to knock off all you need to do is get changed and go. I know I’ve fallen into the trap of going home to get changed to exercise but have been distracted by house work, my dog and (especially) the couch and television. Why not eliminate those distractions and eliminate the temptation not to go and go straight there!

Find a buddy 

This is a great one, find a buddy that can hold you accountable and vice versa. The only tricky thing with this is the buddy needs to enjoy the same form of exercise as you and have a similar timetable to fit in the exercise with you.  As long as your buddy fits both criteria then it works a real treat!!

Put gym clothes on 

This one works for some but not for others and works sometimes but not always, so don’t let this be the only motivation tip you employ. When I say put gym clothes on, it’s as simple as that, go into your cupboard or drawers and pull out your favourite gym gear and let it motivate you to go and exercise!

I have found from personal experience that when I put my gym gear on it motivates me to go to the gym as I feel like I need to get the proper use out of them (not just wear them around the house and out to the shops, but actually sweat in them!)

Social team sport 

Social sports are a great way to get involved and have a regular commitment to a team and to exercise. Whether that’s starting your own team with a group of mates (not only are you exercising but setting a time to catchup every week) or joining a pre-existing team. Either way you go about it, team sports are such a good way to elevate your heart rate! I understand that not everyone is a athlete but that’s the beauty of it, social sports aren’t designed to be super competitive they are designed to allow everyone to have a go and more importantly to have fun! So whether you are an athlete or whether you’ve never played a sport in your life there’s always a social sport you can get involved in!

Some examples include; touch rugby, netball, indoor soccer, beach volleyball…

So next time your lacking the motivation to exercise try using one or even a few of these tips to get back into it and who knows maybe you’ll even enjoy it!

If you aren’t sure where to start or have pain or an injury preventing you from exercising come in to see how we can assist!


To book an appointment with Jess call us today or simply book online.

8 Tips for Staying Fit while Travelling!

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”2001″ img_size=”large” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]I love travelling. I love flying to new places I have never been and exploring cities and cultures that are unfamiliar to me. However, when on holidays I struggle to find the time (and motivation) to exercise, and it doesn’t help when you are stuck sitting on a plane for 10+hours. Visiting a new area usually always involves a packed agenda of things to see and places to eat, and before you know it, your 2-week holiday is finished and all you did was sit, drink, sleep, and eat.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Here are my 8 ways to stay active during your holidays away:

  1. Explore by foot or bike.  Walk or cycle around town and explore the different shops and restaurants in the area. This is a good way to get to know your surroundings and perhaps discover things you may want to come back to see or do later in your trip. Adventuring around can also lead to new experiences or discoveries that no TripAdvisor or Lonely Planet could have ever suggested.

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  1. If you are in a hotel with multiple floors, take the stairs rather than elevator. If you are extra keen, start each morning with a quick 15 minute stair climb.

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  1. Look up hikes around the area. Depending on where in the world you are, typically there will be a hike or at least trail walk somewhere close by. This is a great way to not only get outdoors, but to truly experience and take in the landscape, seascape or cityscape that is surrounding you.

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  1. Use nature as your gym and try a new activity that is common in that area. For example paddleboarding, kayaking, or surfing in warmer climate areas or snow shoe walking, skiing, or skating if you are visiting winter weather.

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  1. Pack a skipping rope or yoga mat. Skipping is a great way to add some cardio into your day and does not require much space, and a light yoga mat can easily be folded and packed into your luggage for morning or night time stretching.

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  1. Use the hotel gym or pool. Easier said than done, but if you know you have access to either, then you can plan ahead to schedule into your week some time for yourself. Swimming is a good way to stay fit and keep your cardio up for a runner who doesn’t have access to a treadmill or outdoors (think snowy, icy winter in Canada…). If swimming isn’t your thing, exercises in the pool are still a great way to work your muscles.

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  1. Use your body weight to train. When access to equipment is limited, using our own bodies is one of the best ways to stay fit. Quick 30 minute workouts in your hotel room is all you need. Here are a few of my body weight exercise suggestions:


-Plank holds (aim 30 seconds to 1 minute)

-Push ups (aim 15-20 repetitions)

-Squat (aim 20 repetitions)

-Burpees (aim 10-15 repetitions)

-Triceps dips using chair (aim 15-20 repetitions)

-Crunches (aim 20 repetitions)

-Mountain climbers (aim for 1 minute)

Repeat each exercise 3 times.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”2007″ img_size=”large” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]

  1. Start saving online exercises and videos before your trip. With the way the fitness world and technology are developing today, there are plenty of resources out there that provide quick (but efficient) body weight exercise programs that can easily be completed in situations where there is a lack of space, time, and equipment. Outlets like Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest and even Instagram, have tons of videos and websites with exercise ideas. When I come across any I find interesting, I immediately save for future use.


There are plenty of ways to incorporate exercise into your holidays and stay fit while on the road. I know holidays are always jammed packed with things to do, but all you need is 30 minutes a day. Just remember to keep moving and exploring because if you don’t use it, you will lose it. But most importantly, listen to your body. Travelling long distances can also lead to jet lag and fatigue so if you are really feeling tired then rest, relax, eat healthy, and rejuvenate yourself to try again the next day!