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Endurance exercise can relieve muscle inflammation, study finds

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Endurance-based exercise can be effective in reducing muscle inflammation, according to a paper published in PLOS ONE.

Muscle inflammation, or myositis, can be caused by infection, injury or chronic disease. Although prescription medications are available, these only relieve the symptoms without addressing the underlying problem.

Lead study author Kanneboyina Nagaraju, Binghamton University Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences, explained: “All the drugs people are using target one immune cell or a group of immune cells, but there are no new drugs that target muscles that are dying.”

Exercise targets the immune cells that are killing the muscles, while also repairing the cell death of the muscle, Nagaraju said.

Nagaraju and his former graduate student Jessica Boehler, together with researchers from the Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden, conducted a study with two groups of volunteers — a 12-week endurance exercise group and a non-exercise group. To see how exercise affected the participants, muscle biopsies were taken before and after exercise.

The results showed that the endurance athletes had signs of significantly improved muscle function with less inflammation.

According to Nagaraju, this was not a surprise.

“The reason why exercise wasn’t considered before is that if people have muscles that are already inflamed or weak, they believed exercise would make the muscles worse,” he said. “However, what is surprising is the question of why exercise is so effective. It’s because exercise takes care of the immune cells that are damaging the muscle while simultaneously targeting specific parts of dead or affected muscles.”

A combination of medication and endurance-based exercise can help patients live a happier and healthier life, Nagaraju concluded.