INTRODUCTION: Inflammageing - characterized by age-related chronic low-grade inflammation is considered to be positively influenced by physical exercises. The aim of this systematic review is to provide an update of the most recent literature regarding exercise effects on the inflammatory profile in older adults.
METHODS: This review is an update of an earlier published literature review and was performed according to the NICE guidelines. Databases PubMed and Web-of-Science were systematically searched by two independent authors screening for papers published since 2016. Effect sizes of outcome parameters related to the inflammatory profile were calculated where possible.
RESULTS & DISCUSSION: Twenty-three articles were included. Resistance training (RT) was the most investigated type of exercise (13 articles: 8 in healthy, 1 in frail and 4 in older adults with a specific condition or disease). Aerobic training (AT) was investigated in 8 articles, including 5 studies in older adults with a specific disease or condition. Combined resistance & aerobic training (CT) was investigated in 7 articles: 3 were in healthy, 1 in frail and 3 in older adults with a specific condition or disease. 1 study investigated the effects of Tai Chi in older adults with mild cognitive impairment. In frail older subjects, IGF-1 - sole marker investigated - significantly increased after 8 weeks RT and CT, whereas AT showed no significant effects compared to control. Most consistent exercise effects consisted in lowering of circulating levels of CRP, IL-6 and TNF-α; which seemed more prominent in healthy older adults compared to those with a specific disease or condition. None of the studies reported an exacerbation of inflammation following exercise and all studied exercise protocols were feasible and safe for older adults.
CONCLUSIONS: Overall, significant anti-inflammatory effects of exercise in older persons were reported. Literature remains extremely scarce regarding the exercise-induced effects in frail older persons. Therefore, there is an urgent need for more studies focusing on the frail elderly. There is growing literature data on exercise interventions in older adults with a specific condition or disease; however, it appears more challenging to reduce inflammageing through exercise in these specific patient groups. Importantly, the exercise interventions performed in all studies appeared to be feasible and safe for older patients, thus the presence of a specific condition or disease should not be considered as a contra-indication to perform physical exercise.