Research News

Can exercise reduce inflammation for lupus patients?

September, 2017    |

According to research conducted by The Ohio State University, researchers discovered that mice modelled with a strain of lupus showed signs of improvement after walking every day for 45 minutes on a treadmill. Compared to 88 per cent of the mice who didn’t exercise who had severe inflammatory damage the kidneys, 45 per cent of the mice who exercised showed less signs of kidney damage.

Researchers found that biomarkers that serve to increase inflammation, decreased immensely for the mice who partook in regular exercise.

In addition to analyzing the exercise experiments, the research team wanted to track the implications of psychological stress that triggers lupus symptoms by placing a mouse with a “stronger” mouse. Results showed that inducing stress increased inflammation and caused more kidney damage in the mice.

These observations are of importance as they can be of use in regulating the symptoms of lupus in humans.

“If we observe similar results in human studies, this could mean that stress reduction and a daily regimen of physical therapy should be considered as interventional strategies to be used alongside current medical treatment,” says Nicholas Young, a senior author and research scientist in rheumatology and immunology at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center. “We may have started to characterize an effective way to reduce inflammation and help people with lupus aside from conventional drug therapy.”

While regular exercise is often recommended by health professionals to their patients with lupus, there lacks the scientific evidence to prove why exercise is effective.

“What you hear a lot from patients is that they’re hurting and they don’t want to get out of bed in the morning and don’t feel like exercising,” Young said.”One of the largest hurdles to get over is that it may not seem intuitive that movement will make you feel better, but it does.”

To see whether the results from the mice research could work for human patients, the research team conducted a pilot study where they enrolled a group of lupus patients into a tai chi program that focused on reducing stress and exercise. In the same way that the mice showed a decrease in inflammatory biomarkers, humans also showed positive results.

To elaborate on their findings, Young is seeking more funding to gather more research and potential evidence.

“We’ve shown on a molecular level that both exercise and stress can impact inflammation by regulation of the immune system, which may provide a unique opportunity to help people suffering from the chronic inflammation associated with autoimmune diseases like lupus,” says Young. “If we find consistent benefits in a large group of people with lupus and can standardize a specific regimen, you could almost imagine a prescription for exercise and stress reduction.”