We all understand that exercising is good for us. But it can feel counterintuitive if you are experiencing painful or uncomfortable inflammation post workout. Rather than forgo all the benefits that exercise brings you -- reduced risk of illness, elevated moods, longevity -- it’s better to address that inflammation with a post-workout routine.
In fact, it has been shown in studies that long-term, consistent exercise routines actually lower overall levels of inflammation in the body. But acute exercise can heighten inflammation in the short-term. Luckily, there are ways to reduce the short-term inflammation so that you can enjoy the benefits of a regular exercise routine.
What is Inflammation?
Before you can defeat an enemy, you must know who to fight. Not that inflammation is entirely evil -- it’s a necessary function of the human body -- but it can cause pain, discomfort, and even disease if left unchecked to run rampant.
So what exactly is inflammation? Inflammation is the body’s response to foreign invaders in the body. White blood cells produce chemicals aimed at the infected area to fight off unwanted materials -- like bacteria that can cause infection. At its core, inflammation is a good thing. It helps wounds heal. It fights off infection. It can kill off a bacterial infection or cold.
It’s when inflammation starts fighting the body itself or is triggered by something that’s not bacteria or a virus that it becomes problematic. With joints, the inflammatory response can cause fluid to leak into the tissues surrounding the joint. This is why injured or sore muscles become swollen. That swelling and inflammatory substances caused by the white blood cells can irritate the joints -- often referred to as arthritis -- and can even lead to deterioration of the cartilage.
The irritation in the joints and loss of cartilage is why it’s important to keep inflammation in check. Exercise can help -- as long as it’s the right kind of exercise and it’s performed mindfully. That’s where tips for reducing post-workout inflammation can come in.
Tips for Reducing Post-Workout Inflammation
In order to get better, stronger, faster, healthier -- you’ll have to sometime push your body. That can sometimes cause inflammation with sore muscles and joints. With the right knowledge and tools, however, the negative effects of inflammation can be minimized. Here’s some tips for reducing post-workout inflammation:
Give your body proper rest.
If you have a particularly hard workout one day, take at least a day off from that activity to allow your body to recover. The acute inflammation from the strenuous workout will subside if you allow your body to rest. It’s when you perform the same strenuous exercise day-after-day that the normal, temporary inflammation can become chronic.
For example, if you are a runner that enjoys long runs -- don’t run everyday. Your body will thank you for taking a breather in-between those runs to heal. Consider resting completely on off-days or doing an active recovery that utilizes different muscles. Yoga and pilates are great choices for active recovery days.
It’s not just endurance sports that need a breather. Weight lifting should be strategically approached too. Take a day off between lifting sessions or swap which muscle groups you engage each day. “Leg day” and “arm day” became common gym phrases because of the knowledge of muscle recovery. Learn from the weightlifters!
One of the best ways to slow down inflammation post-workout is to use a compression product. You can wear the compression garment during your workout and after your workout -- although research shows that wearing the garment AFTER the workout is most effective.
The increased blood circulation and lymph flow caused by compression products is the secret to their success. Increased blood flow brings oxygen to the area. Increased lymph flow moves along the waste. By wearing the compression garments post-workout, you are helping the chemicals produced by those white blood cells -- aka the inflammation -- to move along rather than take place in the joint. Studies have shown that in endurance athletes -- like soccer players and marathoners -- experienced a significant reduction in soreness when wearing compression garments compared to when they didn’t.
Eat anti-inflammatory foods.
Approaching food as fuel for the body is one of the best ways to combat inflammation. You can’t avoid inflammation completely, but you can aid your body by providing it the nutrients, minerals, and proteins it needs to heal quicker.
Eating anti-inflammatory foods can actually be delicious! You’ll find anti-inflammatory properties in a wide range of foods -- particularly in fruits and vegetables. Here are some of the heavy hitters when it comes to anti-inflammatory foods (and drink):
- Leafy greens like spinach and kale.
- Berries, particularly raspberries, cherries, and blueberries.
- Green tea
- Nuts like almonds and cashews.
- Pumpkin Seeds
Avoiding certain foods can be great for inflammation too. If you’re eating inflammatory foods, your post-workout inflammation could just be adding fuel to the fire in your body. Big triggers for inflammation in a lot of people include starches (white bread, crackers, etc.), dairy, processed meat (lunch meat, hot dogs), and fried foods.
Drinking plenty of water is probably on every list of healthy things to do -- but it can’t be overstated. A dehydrated body is more likely to be inflamed. Also, if you are dehydrated you could find yourself lethargic during workouts and set yourself for an injury -- so drink up!
Armed with the proper knowledge and tools (like compression garments) you can help reduce the inflammation brought on by exercise. Anything you can do to make yourself more comfortable will not only encourage you to continue with your workout routine -- but will improve your overall quality of life.
About Kunto Fitness
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