Previous research has shown older adults who remain active are able to slow the physiological effects of aging including increased body fat, decreased muscle mass, and muscle weakness. Other systems in our body also show a decline with aging including the immune system. Immunesenescence or the decline in immune system function due to aging is an established fact with a decline of 2-3% each year beginning in our 20s. A new study highlights the benefits of aerobic exercise on immune system function in older adults.
Duggal and colleagues studied 125 active older adults (55-79 years of age) to determine the impact of exercise on immune system function (Aging Cell. 2018). The authors compared the immune function of these older cyclists to their sedentary peers. Surprisingly, the older cyclists demonstrated immune functions comparable to 20 and 30 year old individuals. Specifically, in T cell levels which help the body respond to infections. The active adults showed less signs of decreased immune system function. This is the first study to show the positive effects of aerobic exercise on immune system function.