Regular exercise offers protection against all-cause mortality, primarily by protection against cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes mellitus. The latter disorders have been associated with chronic low-grade systemic inflammation reflected by a two- to threefold elevated level of several cytokines. Adipose tissue contributes to the production of TNF-alpha, which is reflected by elevated levels of soluble TNF-alpha receptors, IL-6, IL-1 receptor antagonist, and C-reactive protein. We suggest that TNF-alpha rather than IL-6 is the driver behind insulin resistance and dyslipidemia and that IL-6 is a marker of the metabolic syndrome, rather than a cause. During exercise, IL-6 is produced by muscle fibers via a TNF-independent pathway. IL-6 stimulates the appearance in the circulation of other anti-inflammatory cytokines such as IL-1ra and IL-10 and inhibits the production of the proinflammatory cytokine TNF-alpha. In addition, IL-6 enhances lipid turnover, stimulating lipolysis as well as fat oxidation. We suggest that regular exercise induces suppression of TNF-alpha and thereby offers protection against TNF-alpha-induced insulin resistance. Recently, IL-6 was introduced as the first myokine, defined as a cytokine that is produced and released by contracting skeletal muscle fibers, exerting its effects in other organs of the body. Here we suggest that myokines may be involved in mediating the health-beneficial effects of exercise and that these in particular are involved in the protection against chronic diseases associated with low-grade inflammation such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.