Fit to Fight Flu: Birmingham Women Needed for Exercise and Immunity Study

Posted on Wednesday 20th May 2009

University of Birmingham researchers are looking for physically inactive women to help discover if exercising regularly can boost the immune system and lower the risk of catching colds and flu.

The team - from the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences - are looking to recruit women from the Birmingham area, aged 35-65, who wish to increase their physical activity levels.

The study will investigate if an easy lifestyle exercise intervention can enhance the immune system response to a pneumonia vaccination in their everyday lives.

Joanna Long, a lead investigator on the project, said: "We know that becoming more active can enhance your immune system, including lower incidence of colds and flu. However, studies rely on self-reported symptoms and do not control the amount of exposure to the viruses. Measuring the antibody response to vaccination is a more accurate way of assessing how well the immune system is working.

"Some studies have shown that a supervised exercise programme is associated with a better response to vaccination than a non-exercising control group. We are interested in whether a lifestyle physical activity intervention, where exercise becomes part of your daily routine, can have similar benefits."

Volunteers are required to visit the laboratory in the School four times over 16 weeks, where they will be split into two groups who will receive a different lifestyle physical activity intervention. Scientists will measure their body composition, physical fitness, various psychological factors, and antibody levels against a range of common diseases during weeks 1 and 16. Researchers will also measure participants' antibody response to a vaccination against pneumonia given at 12 weeks after study entry. All participants will receive a detailed assessment of their fitness and body composition on completion of the study.

Joanna said the study would give volunteers the opportunity to improve their fitness levels by incorporating daily exercise into their lifestyle.

She added: "Previous research has shown that incorporating exercise into your daily routine may have various heath benefits such as protection from cardiovascular disease and its risk factors, as well as potentially improving your immune system. Additionally, regular exercise has also been shown to reduce symptoms of psychological distress."

Anyone wishing to take part in the study should initially contact the main investigators:
Dr Victoria Burns 0121 414 8104 or Jo Long on 0121 414 8743, jel501@bham.ac.uk

For more information about this study visit: www.sportex.bham.ac.uk.

Ends

Media Information

Anna Dingley on 0121 4158134/07769 952763, email a.j.dingley@bham.ac.uk or Anna Mitchell on 0121 4146029/07920 593946.
www.newscentre.bham.ac.uk

Notes to Editor

The School of Sport and Exercise Sciences is part of the University of Birmingham's College of Life and Environmental Sciences.

The study is not suitable for people who have a recent history of cancer or inflammatory disease, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder or wear a pacemaker. Nor will participants be suffering from diabetes mellitus, asthma, congestive heart failure or psychiatric disorders. Participants will also be excluded if they have had a recent illness or vaccination against pneumonia in the past 10 years, or take any medications that interfere with immune responses.

Taking part in the study will take up some of your time, such as speaking with the study staff, coming to the laboratory and completing body composition measurements, although we will provide you with a detailed assessment of your progress over the course of the study. Some mild bruising/soreness may occur from taking blood; this will be kept to a minimum as we will only use trained personnel. The walking test may cause some feelings of fatigue. Like any vaccination, there are some possible side effects, the most common of these include soreness, redness, warmth, swelling and hardening at the injection site, and fever (<38.8:C). These reactions occur in less than 1 in 10 vaccines administered. It is possible that, in some very rare cases, a severe allergic reaction may occur; however, this is extremely rare. Additionally, this is a standard, commonly used vaccination which will be carried out by a trained nurse.