Preventing or Reversing Immunosenescence

Can Exercise Be an Immunotherapy?

Adriana L de Araújo; Léia CR Silva; Juliana Ruiz Fernandes; Gil Benard


Immunotherapy. 2013;5(8):879-893. 

In This Article

Is Exercise an Immunotherapy for Immunosenescence?

As discussed above, aging of the immune system, particularly the dysregulation of T-cell function, appears to be partly responsible for the comorbidities presented by the elderly population. These individuals are more susceptible to different infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases and cancer and respond less well to vaccination when compared with a young adult population. Although it is possible that exercise or lifestyle acts to prevent or treat immunosenescence, there is no clear answer to this question thus far.

Although the impact of exercise on the immune system is an area of extensive research, most studies have focused on the responses to acute exercise. Such studies have shown that the immune response to acute exercise is transient and variable, being influenced by a wide range of factors, such as the intensity, duration and mode of exercise, concentrations of hormones during exercise, and change in body temperature, blood flow, hydration status and body position (upright vs horizontal).[92,93] Leukocytosis, granulocytosis, slight lymphocytosis and decreases in the proportion of T to B cells usually reflect changes in blood volume, demargination and tissue migration of the peripheral blood cells. Lymphocyte subsets show a decreased helper/suppressor cell ratio and an increase in NK cells. Prolonged exercise leads to a decrease in serum and salivary immunoglobulin levels.[94,95] Other studies showed that marathoners present with more airway infections 3–72 h after competition or even 2 weeks after competition.[96–98] However, few studies have addressed the immune response to exercise training in the long term, particularly in elderly people. The two sections below describe the few studies that have addressed this issue. The first describes interventional studies that found some benefits, and the second describes studies that did not. These data are summarized in Table 2.