Objective: We hypothesized that physical exercise in postmenopausal women could interfere with the molecular interrelationship of the immune-endocrine system and be effective even in women in whom training determined a reduction of spontaneous physical activity (SPA). For this reason, we investigated the effects of an aerobic program on plasma dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S) and cytokine levels in relationship to SPA modification.
Methods: Thirty-two postmenopausal women (mean [SD] age, 56.38 [4.33] y) were enrolled in the study. Inclusion criteria were as follows: age younger than 65 years, body mass index higher than 18.5 and lower than 35 kg/m2, no pharmacological treatments, and no history of chronic, cardiovascular, or orthopedic diseases. Before and after 3 months of walking training at moderate intensity (40-50 min, 4 d/wk), they were evaluated for SPA, body composition, energy intake, and levels of plasma cytokines (tumor necrosis factor α [TNF-α], interleukin [IL]-1α, IL-1β, IL-2, IL-8, and IL-10), C-reactive protein, DHEA-S, cortisol, and estrogen.
Results: At baseline, SPA did not correlate with either DHEA-S level or cytokine levels. There was negative correlation between DHEA-S and both TNF-α and IL-2. After the intervention program, 16 women showed increased SPA, and 16 women showed decreased SPA. Independent of these changes in SPA, both TNF-α levels and cortisol-to-DHEA-S ratio decreased, whereas DHEA-S levels increased.
Conclusions: In postmenopausal women, walking training, rather than SPA, influences DHEA-S and cytokine concentrations and their correlations, thus interfering with adrenal steroids and the inflammatory markers network. Physical exercise acts in parallel on menopausal neuroendocrine alterations and on the systemic inflammatory profile independent of SPA changes.