Exercise & Inflammation: Induction & Reduction

Exercise & Inflammation: Induction & Reduction

If you’ve ever felt sore a day or two after a hard workout, you’ve likely experienced exercise inflammation. Inflammation in your muscles is the product of a good workout, as your body repairs itself and your muscles become stronger. But without rest and optimal healing, inflammation can impact your health and your exercise efforts.

Learn what exercises lead to inflammation, how to notice the signs, and how to reduce inflammation in the body to make sure you recover fully in between workouts.

What is Exercise Induced Inflammation?

Inflammation is the immune system’s response to tissue damage. White blood cells rush to your muscles to heal them after they’ve undergone a hard workout. These cells absorb the debris of damaged cells, while other cells, called macrophages, stimulate tissue regeneration. Muscle micro tears repair and rebuild, making you stronger after workouts and more resistant to future muscle damage.

Inflammation works to repair exercise-caused tissue damage, but it also causes secondary muscle damage between workouts as free radicals are released. Free radicals are unstable molecules that are missing an electron. When they interact with other molecules in the body they can cause damage. This can lead to delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which is why your soreness may be worse a couple of days after a workout rather than immediately afterward.

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Signs of Exercise Induced Inflammation

It’s normal to feel soreness after a workout, but there are some signs that you should definitely scale back your exercise intensity to prevent chronic inflammation. According to “Runner’s World,” if you experience any of the following, you should see a physician and you should rest and give your body time to recover before jumping back into an intense workout:

  • Burnout
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Elevated heart rate upon waking
  • General sense of fatigue
  • Increased muscle soreness
  • Night sweats
  • Unusual pain and stiffness
  • Swelling and heat in muscles

These symptoms are your body’s way of telling you to rest so you can recover.

What Exercises Cause Muscle Inflammation?

A variety of workouts will cause muscle inflammation. If you’re pushing your body harder than you previously have, you’re bound to experience muscle soreness as your immune system works to repair your tissues.

Some common exercises or activities that can induce inflammation include:

  • Running - Weight-bearing exercises in particular are likely to cause inflammation. These include exercises where you’re putting a strain on your body weight without holding actual weights, like running. Runners, in particular, need to be aware of inflammation because eccentric muscle contractions trigger a pronounced inflammatory response.
  • Cycling - Long distance and intense cycling can lead to mild, localized inflammation that presents after a weighted or sprinting session. A common cause of inflammation among cyclists is insufficient recovery. Cyclists tend to exercise far more than the average person and without proper recovery, inflammation can start to hold them back. 
  • HIIT - High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a highly efficient exercise but too much is not necessarily a good thing. Health authority, Precision Nutrition, explains that intense exercise such as HIIT, puts you into an “emergency mode” and elevates levels of stress hormones in the body. High-intensity exercises are healthy in moderation but too much can lead to unwanted inflammation.
  • Weight Training - Exercise using weights can also cause inflammation levels to spike. Microscopic muscle damage occurs during strength training, especially during the lowering phase of a repetition. As a result of workout-induced muscle damage, inflammation rises in the short term. 

CrossFit, powerlifting, and Olympic lifting cause the most inflammation and tiny micro-tears in your muscles. This type of exercise-induced inflammation can be beneficial for muscle building, but intensity is a factor and when adequate rest isn’t achieved, weight training can cause undesirable muscle inflammation.

  • Low-impact exercises - Low-impact exercises, like walking or swimming, are less likely to cause inflammation. But if you’re new to exercise or are doing low-impact exercises at a high intensity or for a long duration, you may still experience inflammation and muscle soreness. Any exercise that pushes you beyond what you’re conditioned to do can cause inflammation.  

Exercise is good for you and soreness after working out is normal, but intense workouts without proper rest can make balancing exercise-induced inflammation difficult.

How to Reduce Inflammation in the Body

Balancing exercise-induced inflammation means training gradually to give your body time to adapt to more intense training. If you jump into a new workout and do it for a prolonged period of time or at a high intensity, you’re more likely to experience the effects of exercise and inflammation. 

Preparing for your workout by warming up, fueling with carbs and electrolytes, getting enough sleep, and staying hydrated are also great ways to reduce muscle inflammation. 

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Prepare for Inflammation so You Can Use it to Your Benefit

Post-workout tissue inflammation can slow your recovery, limit your fitness gains and cause overuse injuries. You’ll want to increase training gradually and recover efficiently with proper sleep, hydration, nutrient-rich foods, and rest days to help you recover.

Introducing CBD can also help you manage exercise-induced inflammation and support a healthy lifestyle. CBD can supplement fitness training plans so athletes and exercisers can achieve proper recovery. Find out more about introducing CBD to your fitness routine in our article CBD for Athletes and Recovery, or reach out to Charlotte’s Web directly.