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

Peter T. Campbell, Mark H. Wener, Bess Sorensen, Brent Wood, Zehava Chen-Levy, John D. Potter, Anne McTiernan, Cornelia M. Ulrich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


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 ≥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 O2 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1648-1655
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Behavioral intervention
  • Immunity
  • Natural killer cell cytotoxicity
  • Physical activity
  • T-lymphocyte proliferation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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