In recent years, it has become clear that chronic systemic low-grade inflammation is at the root of many, if not all, typically Western diseases associated with the metabolic syndrome. While much focus has been given to sedentary lifestyle as a cause of chronic inflammation, it is less often appreciated that chronic inflammation may also promote a sedentary lifestyle, which in turn causes chronic inflammation. Given that even minor increases in chronic inflammation reduce brain volume in otherwise healthy individuals, the bidirectional relationship between inflammation and sedentary behaviour may explain why humans have lost brain volume in the last 30,000 years and also intelligence in the last 30 years. We review evidence that lack of physical activity induces chronic low-grade inflammation and, consequently, an energy conflict between the selfish immune system and the selfish brain. Although the notion that increased physical activity would improve health in the modern world is widespread, here we provide a novel perspective on this truism by providing evidence that recovery of normal human behaviour, such as spontaneous physical activity, would calm proinflammatory activity, thereby allocating more energy to the brain and other organs, and by doing so would improve human health.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Clinical Neurology