6 Citations (Scopus)
14 Downloads (Pure)


BACKGROUND: Resistance exercise is beneficial for the immune system, including decreased susceptibility to infections and improved effectiveness of vaccinations. This review aims to provide a systematic analysis of the literature regarding the impact of resistance exercise on immune cells in the blood circulation.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: The protocol of this review followed the PRISMA guidelines and registered in PROSPERO (ID: CRD42020157834). PubMed and Web-of-Science were systematically searched for relevant articles. Outcomes were divided into two categories: 1) inflammatory gene expression or secretion of inflammation-related cytokines and 2) other aspects such as cell migration, proliferation, apoptosis, phagocytosis, and redox status.

RESULTS: Thirty intervention studies were included in this review, of which 11 articles were randomized controlled trials and six non-randomized controlled trials. Although only resistance exercise interventions were included, there was a high heterogeneity regarding specific exercise modalities. The most frequently studied outcome measures were the gene and protein expression levels in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC). This review reveals that already one acute exercise bout activates the nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells (NF-κB) signaling pathway in PBMC. Although resistance exercise induces an acute cytosolic oxidative stress response, the antioxidant enzyme expression is improved after resistance training period. Natural killer cell activity increases in older but decreases in younger adults immediately after a resistance exercise bout. Moreover, resistance exercise improves neutrophil phagocytic activity. Finally, effects on lymphocyte proliferation remain unclear.

CONCLUSIONS: The results of this systematic review demonstrate that resistance exercise has beneficial effects on several aspects of immune cell function both in young and older individuals. Acute changes in immune cell function occur already after a single bout of resistance exercise. However, regular resistance training during several weeks seems necessary to obtain beneficial adaptations that can be related to better immunity and reduced inflammation. The effects documented in this review confirm the beneficial effects of resistance exercise in young as well as older persons on the immune cell function.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111822
JournalExperimental Gerontology
Early online date29 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier Inc.


  • Cell function
  • Immune system
  • Inflammaging
  • Lymphocytes
  • Resistance training


Dive into the research topics of 'The effect of resistance exercise on the immune cell function in humans: A systematic review'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this