(HealthDay News) — Middle-aged adults who have regularly engaged in physical activity for more than a decade appear to benefit from lower markers of inflammation, according to a study published online Aug. 13 in Circulation.

Mark Hamer, Ph.D., from University College London, and colleagues examined the association between physical activity and inflammatory markers over a 10-year follow-up period using data from 4,289 men and women (mean age, 49.2 years) from the Whitehall II cohort study. At baseline (1991) and follow-up (2002), self-reported physical activity and inflammatory markers (serum high-sensitivity C-reactive protein and interleukin-6) were measured.

The researchers found that, across all assessments, 49 percent of the participants adhered to standard physical activity recommendations for cardiovascular health (2.5 hours/week of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity). At baseline, physically active participants had lower C-reactive protein and interleukin-6 levels, with this difference persisting over time. Over the 10-year follow-up period, the high-adherence group had lower loge C-reactive protein and loge interleukin-6, after adjustment for covariates, compared to participants who rarely adhered to physical activity guidelines. Participants who reported an increase in physical activity of at least 2.5 hours/week displayed lower loge C-reactive protein and loge interleukin-6 at follow-up, compared to participants whose exercise remained stable.

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“The results show that physically active participants maintain lower levels of inflammatory markers over a 10-year period,” the authors write. “Thus, physical activity may be important in preventing the proinflammatory state seen with aging.”

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