The effects of exercise on vaccination responses: a review of chronic and acute exercise interventions in humans

Brain Behav Immun. 2014 Jul;39:33-41. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2013.10.003. Epub 2013 Oct 11.


Vaccination programs, although feted for success in reducing infectious disease morbidity and mortality, are limited by vaccine efficacy, which is particularly problematic in populations with reduced immune function. Exercise has been identified as a behavioural factor that can improve immune function in some settings and cohorts, and therefore, in the setting of vaccination, it may serve as an adjuvant for immune responses. Here, we summarise the body of evidence that has investigated the effects of chronic or acute exercise interventions on vaccination responses. A systematic search of the literature was conducted including six major databases. Randomised control trials (RCTs), cross-sectional and observational studies that involved a variety of population samples and that employed any modality or intensity of acute exercise or chronic training prior to vaccine administration and measured any immune response were included. Twenty trials met the inclusion criteria for this review. Nine studies investigated the effect of acute exercise on the immune response to vaccination, whilst the remaining eleven studies investigated the effect of chronic exercise. Most of the current published literature suggests that exposure to either acute or chronic exercise significantly augments the immune response to vaccination. The clinical importance of this adjuvant action of exercise, if any, as well as variability in responsiveness across different cohorts, dose-response relationships and the optimal exercise modality to employ for this indication deserve further study.

Keywords: Adjuvant; Exercise; Immune response; Physical activity; Vaccination.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vaccination
  • Vaccines / immunology*
  • Young Adult


  • Vaccines