Regular Exercise May Help Aid Flu Vaccine
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15 Nov Regular Exercise May Aid Flu Vaccine in Older Men

Regular exercise over a long term may increase the effectiveness of annual flu vaccinations in older men, suggests a study in the journal Age.

Men who were consistently active for up to two decades or longer had significantly greater seroprotection, or antibody levels capable of fighting an influenza infection, to three common influenza strains compared with inactive men. The benefits of activity were similar for moderately active men or more intense exercisers, the study found.

Studies have suggested physical activity can enhance the body’s immune response toinfluenza vaccine, but the exercises varied from aerobic to tai chi, making it difficult to establish their relative advantages, the researchers said. Poor response to vaccines, called immunosenescence, is a common cause of illness and death in older people, they said.

From 2012 to 2013, researchers at the University of São Paulo in Brazil recruited 61 men, age 65 to 85, who got flu shots for the previous five years. Participants included 23 men who practiced volleyball or basketball two to three times a week, 22 avid exercisers, who ran an average of 30 miles or more a week, and 16 inactive men.

Antibodies to flu strains circulating during the study period—H1N1, H3N2 and influenza B—were measured before the latest flu vaccination and again after six weeks and six months.

At six weeks postvaccination, 73% of the exercisers had seroprotection to H1N1, 87% to H3N2 and 64% to the B strain. That compared with seroprotection rates in inactive men of 66%, 60% and 33% for the three strains, respectively. Seroprotection declined in all participants after six months but was significantly higher in active men.

Regular exercisers had higher levels of prevaccination antibodies, suggesting the decline in the vaccine’s effectiveness was less steep between flu shots, researchers said.

Caveat: The study was relatively small and excluded women. The number of previous influenza vaccinations wasn’t confirmed, researchers said.

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Elderly men with moderate and intense training lifestyle present sustained higher antibody responses to influenza vaccine