Higher levels of physical activity are associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease. There is growing evidence that the development of the atherosclerotic plaque is associated with inflammation. In this study, the authors investigated the cross-sectional association between physical activity and markers of inflammation in a healthy elderly population. Data obtained in 1989-1990 and 1992-1993 from the Cardiovascular Health Study, a cohort of 5,888 men and women aged >/=65 years, were analyzed. Concentrations of the inflammation markers-C-reactive protein, fibrinogen, Factor VIII activity, white blood cells, and albumin-were compared cross-sectionally by quartile of self-reported physical activity. Compared with persons in the lowest quartile, those in the highest quartile of physical activity had 19%, 6%, 4%, and 3% lower concentrations of C-reactive protein, white blood cells, fibrinogen, and Factor VIII activity, respectively, after adjustment for gender, the presence of cardiovascular disease, age, race, smoking, body mass index, diabetes, and hypertension. Multivariate regression models suggested that the association of higher levels of physical activity with lower levels of inflammation markers may be mediated by body mass index and glucose. There was no association between physical activity and albumin. Higher levels of physical activity were associated with lower concentrations of four out of five inflammation markers in this elderly cohort. These data suggest that increased exercise is associated with reduced inflammation. Prospective studies will be required for verification of these findings.