Objectives: To determine whether cardiovascular exercise training resulted in improved antibody responses to influenza vaccination in sedentary elderly people who exhibited poor vaccine responses.
Design: Single-site randomized parallel-arm 10-month controlled trial.
Setting: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Participants: One hundred forty-four sedentary, healthy older (69.9 +/- 0.4) adults.
Interventions: Moderate (60-70% maximal oxygen uptake) cardiovascular exercise was compared with flexibility and balance training.
Measurements: The primary outcome was influenza vaccine response, as measured according to hemagglutination inhibition (HI) anti-influenza antibody titer and seroprotective responses (HI titer > or =40). Secondary measures included cardiovascular fitness and body composition.
Results: Of the 160 participants enrolled, 144 (90%) completed the 10-month intervention with excellent compliance ( approximately 83%). Cardiovascular, but not flexibility, exercise intervention resulted in improvements in indices of cardiovascular fitness, including maximal oxygen uptake. Although not affecting peak (e.g., 3 and 6 weeks) postvaccine anti-influenza HI titers, cardiovascular exercise resulted in a significant increase in seroprotection 24 weeks after vaccination (30-100% dependent on vaccine variant), whereas flexibility training did not.
Conclusion: Participants randomized to cardiovascular exercise experienced improvements in influenza seroprotection throughout the entire influenza season, whereas those in the balance and flexibility intervention did not. Although there were no differences in reported respiratory tract infections, the exercise group exhibited reduced overall illness severity and sleep disturbance. These data support the hypothesis that regular endurance exercise improves influenza vaccine responses.