Trainers must be aware of, and address both the hero and villain aspects of post-exercise inflammation, which we refer to as exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD). Among several points to be mindful of are long-term inflammation and chronic inflammatory conditions which a client may knowingly or unknowingly have.

It is ironic, yet true, that inflammation supports either balanced, normal activity, or in excess, triggers a tipping point for abnormal physical (and medical) conditions.

The benefits of “collateral damage” from micro-tears generated by training efforts to improve strength is an example of when the inflammatory process serves a necessary purpose. It is also true that properly planned and executed training sessions can promote our bodies’ sense-and-respond system for growth and repair.

Two Spans

First, let’s bear in mind the standards of measurements commonly used to reflect a person’s age, whether real or perceived.

Gym-span is the expression for extended “gym age” or adjusted fitness age,. Professional Trainers can help their clients gain and maintain impressive Gym-spans by stimulating the “just right” degree of inflammation in workouts.

Clients experience skeletal muscle micro-tears and resultant inflammation from “short-term” activity or exercise that stimulates cellular repair and growth. Cyclical exercise of appropriate volume, intensity, or tempo induces inflammation which leads to growth and repair if conditional wellness steps are taken. Adequate rest, appropriate macro- and micro-nutrient absorption, plus de-stressing to lower cortisol levels are such steps.


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Lifespan is an estimate or actual measure of total human life, regardless of one’s wellness or sickness levels.

Personal and interventional efforts in this second “span” may extend one’s life – with or without the quality of life enabled by factors – like exercise. Future Lifespans may benefit from “gero-” factors like caloric restriction (CR), geroprotection (including supplements like rapamycin and metformin) plus senolytics to offset senescent cells. As one National Institute of Health study suggests, “a combination of CR and exercise may maximize the health benefits in healthy individuals.”

*If a client has a measured gym age or fitness age that is lower or “younger” than her or his chronological age, that client likely has earned a notable gym-span!

Two approaches to extend lifespan should be better than one! What role does inflammation play in this picture?

Inflammation as a Hero

Inflammation plays a conditional, necessary, and impressive “sensing” role to help one (re)gain bodily homeostasis after an acute disease or injury occurs. Exercise technically causes muscle injury. If no sensing of damage from exercise occurs, then no muscular growth and repair will result. Therefore, inflammation can be a “leading edge” hero for one’s bodily adaptation and growth.

Further, a client’s investment in gym-span may link to a healthy, quality lifespan. That is, if chronic low-level inflammation and bodily decay is minimized, inflamm-aging is averted or delayed.

Inflammation as Villain!

Low-level, chronic inflammation is most assuredly a villain to both fitness and longevity domains.

The importance of maintaining functional health and fitness for optimal longevity cannot be understated.

If a mid-life or older client experiences chronic low-grade inflammation over time, adverse aging and/or lifestyle-related illnesses may evolve. Functional health and fitness may then be compromised. Insulin insensitivity, Metabolic Syndrome (MetS) “leaky gut”, and a propensity for serious infections like pneumonia are examples of long-haul, compromised wellness that can be traced to long and slow inflammatory responses.

Sense and Respond

Each client is blessed with an impressive autonomic regulatory system to chemically address short-term/acute damage caused by exercise (micro-tears). Blood-carried proteins (aka cytokines) serve as messengers to stimulate both pro-inflammatory actions and anti-inflammatory responses. A key, pro-inflammatory protein stored in muscles is called Interleukin-6(IL-6). This messenger has a shorthand label of Cytokine C-6 (C-6).

In opposition, a key embedded anti-inflammatory protein messenger for repair and growth is labeled Cytokine-10 or C-10. Our sense-and-respond system automatically works toward systemic balance, despite external hazards.

Trainers must bear in mind that each client’s tolerance of EIMD is unique:

“There is a large interindividual variability of the responses to EIMD, and this has to be acknowledged…”

Client age, preconditioning status, gender, physical conditioning level, and joints’ ranges of motion are factors for tailored exercise planning and execution that each impact EIMD in a complex fashion.


A client’s extended or intense exercise releases pro-inflammatory C-6 messengers in non-linear proportions to the duration or intensity of her or his exercise. For example, a marathoner’s post-race levels of C-6 may be several orders of magnitude higher than the levels at race start.

Similarly, a client’s specific level of strength or resistance activity should generate exercise-induced muscle damage –which initiates the sense-and-respond cycle for growth and repair.

The higher the level of pro-inflammatory messaging, the higher the level of responsive growth and repair cytokine C-10. Unless…

See Sawed

Too much of a good thing is not wonderful as a client’s extreme exercise (or perhaps a pandemic virus) can cause imbalances in the see-saw C-6/C-10 messaging system.

Such imbalances may result in client injury, illness, or possibly lead to chronic auto-immune conditions.

Note: Trainers should be aware of a particular biomarker called C-Reactive Protein (CRP) that persists in the bloodstream if long-haul, low-level decay and excess C-6 levels are evident. Lab Serum Tests increasingly measure C-RP to gauge bodily inflammation and possible disease/infection.


There is much ado about a client’s inflammation process. Sometimes a hero, sometimes a villain inflammation and its role in homeostatic cycles should be well understood by personal trainers.

By effectively utilizing exercise to induce appropriate micro-tears/injury, trainers can practically help their clients achieve:

  1. Elevated metabolic rates
  2. Leaner body composition
  3. Stem cell regeneration
  4. Immunity to counter diseases

Clients’ physical efforts may complement “gero-protection” provided by plant-based micronutrients and non-organic senolytic additives to improve lifespan. When we acknowledge the natural role of inflammation in a client’s muscular repair and growth process and efforts for gym-span gains, we become agents of longevity for them as well.

Of note:

Severe inflammatory exercise may cause a client to experience extended muscle soreness and delayed repair for a week or more. This is not desireable. Muscular inflammation from moderate activity – such as a client’s 30-minute cardiovascular walk to a point of sweating – may be overcome in a day or two. These recovery durations are planning points for micro-periodizations of effective client workouts to develop and sustain gym-span.

Helping clients set their Gym-span world on fire should be business as usual.

Dave Frost

Dave Frost has served the fitness community as a NFPT-certified CPT since 2013, and a Master Fitness Trainer since 2019.
As a Medicare-aged baby boomer, he specializes in training those clients who intend to stay “well past forty”.
He is a former world champion in Masters Rowing and National Indoor Rowing champion for his age group. He is also a group fitness instructor for The Row House. His website is Dave recently published his work: KABOOMER: Thriving and Striving into your Nineties to promote stamininety for those intending to add years to their lives and life to their years.