Exercising Daily and Managing Stress Benefits Lupus Patients, Mouse Study Suggests

Chris Comish avatar

by Chris Comish |

Share this article:

Share article via email
Tai Chi

Daily moderate exercise suppresses lupus-associated kidney inflammation while social stress worsens it, researchers at Ohio State University have found.

Their study, “Daily Moderate Exercise Is Beneficial and Social Stress Is Detrimental to Disease Pathology in Murine Lupus Nephritis,” appeared in the journal Frontiers in Physiology.

Physicians normally tell their lupus patients to exercise moderately for 50 minutes, at least three times a week. Other studies suggest that patients who follow stress reduction programs have better disease outcomes. However, few studies systematically address optimal exercise frequency and duration, and how exercise and stress affect tissue inflammation.

For their research, scientists at OSU used mice that spontaneously developed severe early-onset glomerulonephritis — a lupus-associated kidney disease — to study the impact of daily moderate exercise (DME) and social disruption stress (SDR) on disease progression.

By the age of 11 to 13 weeks, mice started exercising daily for 45 minutes on a treadmill at 8.5 m/min. To stress mice, researchers exposed them every day to an aggressive male for two hours during six days.

The team looked at kidneys of exercised and stressed animals and compared them to control mice. While 88 percent of non-exercising animals had significant kidney damage, only affected 45 percent of mice that exercised were diseased; that translates into a 38 percent reduction in the incidence of tissue damage. In contrast, SDR induced several parameters of lupus nephritis such as deposition of IgG and C3 complexes, lupus immunological markers.

Researchers then looked for inflammatory cells in the kidney, and for inflammatory blood markers (the cytokines IL-6, TNF-a, IL-1b and MCP-1). While exercise inhibited inflammation, stress increased it.

Overall, the study suggests that moderate exercise combined with techniques that help patients manage stress, such as Tai Chi, are likely to improve disease by controlling inflammation.

“Our preliminary data indicate that daily Tai Chi can potentially be an effective adjunct therapy to compliment current pharmacological interventions,” wrote OSU researchers, adding that a future study will characterize the molecules responsible for the benefits of exercise and reduced physiological stress.