Physical activity and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein

Sports Med. 2006;36(5):443-58. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200636050-00006.


Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains one of the leading causes of death and disability in developed countries around the world despite the documented success of lifestyle and pharmacological interventions. This illustrates the multifactorial nature of atherosclerosis and the use of novel inflammatory markers as an adjunct to risk factor reduction strategies. As evidence continues to accumulate that inflammation is involved in all stages of the development and progression of atherosclerosis, markers of inflammation such as high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (CRP) may provide additional information regarding the biological status of the atherosclerotic lesion. Recent investigations suggest that physical activity reduces CRP levels. Higher levels of physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness are consistently associated with 6-35% lower CRP levels. Longitudinal training studies that have demonstrated reductions in CRP concentrations range from 16% to 41%, an effect that may be independent of baseline levels of CRP, body composition or weight loss. The average change in CRP associated with physical activity appears to be at least as good, if not better, than currently prescribed pharmacological interventions in similar populations. The primary purpose of this review will be to present evidence from both cross-sectional and longitudinal investigations that physical activity lowers CRP levels in a dose-response manner. Finally, this review will examine factors such as body composition, sex, blood sample timing, diet and smoking, which may influence the CRP response to physical activity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • C-Reactive Protein / analysis
  • C-Reactive Protein / immunology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / etiology
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • United States


  • C-Reactive Protein