Is immunosenescence influenced by our lifetime “dose” of exercise?

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The age-associated decline in immune function, referred to as immunosenescence, is well characterised within the adaptive immune system, and in particular, among T cells. Hallmarks of immunosenescence measured in the T cell pool, include low numbers and proportions of naïve cells, high numbers and proportions of late-stage differentiated effector memory cells, poor proliferative responses to mitogens, and a CD4:CD8 ratio <1.0. These changes are largely driven by infection with Cytomegalovirus, which has been directly linked with increased inflammatory activity, poor responses to vaccination, frailty, accelerated cognitive decline, and early mortality. It has been suggested however, that exercise might exert an anti-immunosenescence effect, perhaps delaying the onset of immunological ageing or even rejuvenating aged immune profiles. This theory has been developed on the basis of evidence that exercise is a powerful stimulus of immune function. For example, in vivo antibody responses to novel antigens can be improved with just minutes of exercise undertaken at the time of vaccination. Further, lymphocyte immune-surveillance, whereby cells search tissues for antigens derived from viruses, bacteria, or malignant transformation, is thought to be facilitated by the transient lymphocytosis and subsequent lymphocytopenia induced by exercise bouts. Moreover, some forms of exercise are anti-inflammatory, and if repeated regularly over the lifespan, there is a lower morbidity and mortality from diseases with an immunological and inflammatory aetiology. The aim of this article is to discuss recent theories for how exercise might influence T cell immunosenescence, exploring themes in the context of hotly debated issues in immunology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)581-602
Issue number3
Early online date29 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016


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