Impact of exercise on markers of B cell-related immunity: A systematic review

David Walzik, Sergen Belen, Karen Wilisch, Marie Kupjetz, Silvana Kirschke, Tobias Esser, Niklas Joisten, Alexander Schenk, Sebastian Proschinger, Philipp Zimmer

Publication: Contribution to journalScientific review articlesResearch


BACKGROUND: B cells represent a crucial component of adaptive immunity that ensures long-term protection from infection by generating pathogen-specific immunoglobulins. Exercise alters B cell counts and immunoglobulin levels, but evidence-based conclusions on potential benefits for adaptive immunity are lacking. This systematic review assessed current literature on the impact of acute exercise and exercise training on B cells, immunoglobulins, and markers of secretory immunity in human biofluids.

METHODS: According to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines, MEDLINE, Web of Science, and Embase were searched on March 8, 2023. Non-randomized controlled trials and crossover trials investigating the impact of acute exercise or exercise training on B cell counts and proportions, immunoglobulin levels, salivary flow rate, or secretory immunoglobulin A secretion rate were included. Quality and reporting of exercise training studies was assessed using the Tool for the Assessment of Study Quality and reporting in Exercise. Study characteristics, outcome measures, and statistically significant changes were summarized tabularly.

RESULTS: Of the 67 eligible studies, 22 applied acute exercise and 45 applied exercise training. All included outcomes revealed significant alterations over time in acute exercise and exercise training context, but only a few investigations showed significant differences compared to control conditions. Secretory and plasma immunoglobulin A levels were most consistently increased in response to exercise training.

CONCLUSION: B cell-related outcomes are altered by acute exercise and exercise training, but evidence-based conclusions cannot be drawn with high confidence due to the large heterogeneity in populations and exercise modalities. Well-designed trials with large sample sizes are needed to clarify how exercise shapes B cell-related immunity.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of sport and health science
Publication statusElectronically/ online published ahead of print - 11.10.2023


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