Physical Activity, Inflammation, and Physical Function in Older Adults: Results From the Health & Retirement Study

Biol Res Nurs. 2023 Jan;25(1):24-32. doi: 10.1177/10998004221111217. Epub 2022 Jul 7.


Physical function declines with aging due to physical and biological changes. The biological process of aging has been associated with increases in systemic inflammation and a greater risk for chronic conditions. In older adults, physical activity aids in maintenance of function. However, the influence of inflammatory biomarkers and adiposity on physical activity and physical function needs to be further explored.

Methods: A cross-sectional secondary data analysis from Wave 13 of the Health & Retirement Study (HRS) core biennial data and Venous Blood Study (VBS) was conducted. Structural equation modeling was used to establish the model and test the relationships.

Results: Chronic low-level inflammation was moderately negatively correlated with physical activity (r = -0.326) and function (r = -0.367). Latent regressions showed that higher physical activity is associated with better physical function (unstandardized estimate = 0.600, p < .001) while inflammation negatively affects physical function (unstandardized estimate = -0.139, p < .001), and adiposity was not a predictor in the model (p = 0.055).

Conclusion: For older adults, preserving physical function by participation in physical activity and decreasing chronic inflammation are key preventive health strategies for older adults to maintain independence, with a need to further explore pro and anti-inflammatory biomarkers.

Keywords: body mass index; exercise; functioning; inflammation.

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity
  • Aged
  • Aging
  • Biomarkers
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Exercise*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation*
  • Obesity / complications


  • Biomarkers