Physical activity and modulation of systemic low-level inflammation

J Leukoc Biol. 2005 Oct;78(4):819-35. doi: 10.1189/jlb.0505247. Epub 2005 Jul 20.


It has been recognized for some time that cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes are, to a major extent, inflammatory disorders associated with an environment characterized by a sedentary lifestyle together with abundant intakes of calories. Systemic low-level inflammation is suggested to be a cause as well as consequence of pathological processes with local tumor necrosis factor alpha production as an important biological driver. It is hypothesized that physical inactivity contributes to an enhanced proinflammatory burden independently of obesity, as regular muscle contractions mediate signals with myokines/cytokines as important messengers, which suppress proinflammatory activity at distant sites as well as within skeletal muscle. Muscle-derived interleukin (IL)-6 is considered to possess a central role in anti-inflammatory activities and health beneficial effects in relation to physical exercise. It is discussed how this fits the consistent observation that enhanced plasma levels of IL-6 represent a strong risk marker in chronic disorders associated with systemic low-level inflammation and all-cause mortality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Interleukin-6 / blood
  • Interleukin-6 / immunology
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / immunology
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / immunology


  • Interleukin-6
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha