Six movements to combat inflammation

Six movements to combat inflammation

An Article by Exercise Physiologist, Jennifer Smallridge

In small doses, inflammation is part of the body’s normal healing process. But too much inflammation can lead to pain, stiffness and discomfort, which can stop us from being active, which leads to more - you guessed it! - pain, stiffness and discomfort. 

This is a vicious and common cycle, but what if there were small steps you could take each day to help combat this? Read on to find out which movements could change the course of inflammation in your body.


1. Walking

Just 20 minutes of walking has been shown to stimulate the immune system and provoke an anti-inflammatory response1. Remember that you can also get creative with your walk to offload your joints - try hiking poles, walking in waist deep water, or walking on a treadmill to see what works best for you.

2. Cycling

Prefer to don the Lycra? Good news! Much like walking, cycling promotes anti-inflammatory activity in the immune system2.

3. Squatting - the version that’s right for you

Picking the right movement with plenty of recovery time is the key to balance the inflammatory cycle of strength exercises3. For example, a squat could be modified to sitting and standing from a chair, or weights could be added to make it more challenging.



4. Yoga

You don’t need to be in full downward dog to receive the benefits of yoga - gentle sequences of movements with breathing also add up to help combat inflammation4


5. Lower back stretch

Stretching has been found to reduce inflammation in connective tissue5, and given that the lower back is a common site of pain, getting down on the ground for a good spinal twist every day could be the key to keeping active. Lie down, bend your knees with your feet on the ground, place your arms out to the side and let your knees rotate from side to side to create a lovely stretch.



6. Self-massage

Inflammation is associated with feelings of tightness and tension, so use your own hands to unwind and relax6. Whilst seated or lying, press gently into your jaw (just under your cheekbones), or underneath the bony ridge at the back of your head, and let your stress melt away.





About the author

Jennifer Smallridge is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist, writer and academic lecturer with 10 years of clinical experience. She particularly loves helping people to understand the “why” behind exercise. She has a special interest in pain and fatigue, and was a finalist for ESSA’s Exercise Physiologist of the Year in 2018. Her favourite type of exercise is dancing and walking her dog Barney.






  1. Dimitrov, S., Hulteng, E. and Hong, S., 2017. Inflammation and exercise: Inhibition of monocytic intracellular TNF production by acute exercise via β2-adrenergic activation. Brain, behavior, and immunity, 61, pp.60-68.
  2. Liao, M.T., Liu, W.C., Lin, F.H., Huang, C.F., Chen, S.Y., Liu, C.C., Lin, S.H., Lu, K.C. and Wu, C.C., 2016. Intradialytic aerobic cycling exercise alleviates inflammation and improves endothelial progenitor cell count and bone density in hemodialysis patients. Medicine, 95(27).
  3. Calle, M.C. and Fernandez, M.L., 2010. Effects of resistance training on the inflammatory response. Nutrition research and practice, 4(4), pp.259-269.
  4. Djalilova, D.M., Schulz, P.S., Berger, A.M., Case, A.J., Kupzyk, K.A. and Ross, A.C., 2019. Impact of yoga on inflammatory biomarkers: a systematic review. Biological research for nursing, 21(2), pp.198-209.
  5. Berrueta, L., Muskaj, I., Olenich, S., Butler, T., Badger, G.J., Colas, R.A., Spite, M., Serhan, C.N. and Langevin, H.M., 2016. Stretching impacts inflammation resolution in connective tissue. Journal of cellular physiology, 231(7), pp.1621-1627.
  6. Michelotti, A., de Wijer, A., Steenks, M. and Farella, M., 2005. Home‐exercise regimes for the management of non‐specific temporomandibular disorders. Journal of oral rehabilitation, 32(11), pp.779-785.
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