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Effect of exercise on in vitro immune function: a 12-month randomized, controlled trial among postmenopausal women.

  • Campbell, Peter T
  • Wener, Mark H
  • Sorensen, Bess
  • Wood, Brent
  • Chen-Levy, Zehava
  • Potter, John D
  • McTiernan, Anne
  • Ulrich, Cornelia M
Published Article
Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985)
Publication Date
Jun 01, 2008
DOI: 10.1152/japplphysiol.01349.2007
PMID: 18403448


Cross-sectional studies suggest that moderate physical activity is associated with enhanced resting immune function; however, few randomized controlled trials have investigated this link. We investigated the effect of 12-mo aerobic exercise, relative to stretching control, on in vitro immune function in a randomized, controlled trial of 115 postmenopausal, overweight, or obese sedentary women, aged 50-75 yr. The exercise goal was > or =45 min/day, 5 days/wk. Control women participated in 1 day/wk stretching classes. Immune markers (natural killer cell cytotoxicity, T-lymphocyte proliferation, immune cell counts and phenotypes, and serum immunoglobulins) were assessed at baseline, 3 mo, and 12 mo under strict blood-draw criteria. General estimation equations evaluated intervention effects at 3 and 12 mo, controlling for baseline. Of the 115 women who began the trial, blood samples were available from 109 at 3 mo (95%) and 108 at 12 mo (94%). From baseline to 12 mo, the exercise group participated in 87% of the prescribed physical activity minutes per week and increased maximal O(2) uptake by 13.8%; controls experienced no change in fitness. The main outcomes, natural killer cell cytotoxicity and T-lymphocyte proliferation, did not differ between groups at 3 and 12 mo. Secondary outcome and subgroup (e.g., stratification by baseline categories of body mass index, immune status, C-reactive protein, and age) analyses did not show any clear patterns of association. This 12-mo randomized, controlled trial showed no effect of aerobic exercise on in vitro immune function, despite excellent retention, high adherence, and demonstrable efficacy of the exercise intervention.


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