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Walking training affects dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate and inflammation independent of changes in spontaneous physical activity

Izzicupo, Pascal BSc, MSc, PhD1; D’Amico, Maria Angela MSc, PhD1; Bascelli, Adriana1; Di Fonso, Alessia MSc1; D’Angelo, Emanuele BSc, MSc2; Di Blasio, Andrea BSc, MSc, PhD2; Bucci, Ines MD, PhD2; Napolitano, Giorgio MD1; Gallina, Sabina MD2; Di Baldassarre, Angela MD1

doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e31827425c9
Original Articles

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.

From the Departments of 1Medicine and Aging Sciences, and 2Human Movement Sciences, “G. d’Annunzio” University of Chieti-Pescara, Chieti, Italy.

Received May 11, 2012; revised and accepted August 30, 2012.

Funding/support: This study was supported by Ministry of Education, University, and Research funds (ex-60%).

Financial disclosure/conflicts of interest: None reported.

Address correspondence to: Angela Di Baldassarre, MD, Section of Human Morphology, Department of Medicine and Aging Sciences, “G. d’Annunzio” University of Chieti-Pescara, Via Dei Vestini 31, 66013 Chieti, Italy. E-mail:

© 2013 by The North American Menopause Society.