Exercise Boosts Immunity in Elderly Men

Study Shows Fit Seniors Match Young Men's Immunity

From the WebMD Archives

Aug. 27, 2004 -- It's never too late to reap the benefits of exercise. In fact, men in their 60s and older who work out regularly can boost age-related declines in immunity.

That’s the finding of scientists from the department of integrative physiology at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The findings are published in the August issue of the Journal of Applied Physiology.

The team, led by Monika Fleshner, studied the immune system response of 46 physically active or sedentary men aged 20-25 and 65-79.

The sedentary men hadn't exercised regularly in more than two years, while physically active men worked out at least three times a week for two or more years. All were healthy and none smoked, took medications, or were heavy drinkers.

The researchers injected the men with a benign substance that is safe for humans but should prompt an immune system response.

Blood tests analyzing the immune response were taken at the start of the study and every week thereafter for a month.

Three weeks into the study, the participants received another injection of the benign substance.

The elderly exercisers had significantly higher immune system response than the sedentary seniors. The level of immunity seen matched the immune response seen in the younger men in the study.

Ordinarily, immune system response decreases with age, which can leave seniors more vulnerable to illness.

"Maintaining a physically active lifestyle improves health throughout the life span, but especially during times of immunocompromise," write the researchers.

All it takes is regular, moderate exercise, the researchers say.

Don't forget the many other positive side effects of exercise. Add it all up, and working out is not just for the young anymore.

WebMD Health News Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on August 27, 2004

Sources

SOURCES: Fleshner, M. Journal of Applied Physiology, August 2004; vol 97: pp 491-498. News release, American Physiological Society.

© 2004 WebMD, Inc. All rights Reserved.