1. Addison, Odessa DPT
  2. LaStayo, Paul C. PT, PhD
  3. Dibble, Leland E. PT, PhD
  4. Marcus, Robin L. PT, PhD


Background: Physical therapists treat older individuals, characterized as both a needy and expanding population. Frailty, a predisability condition with links to chronic inflammatory conditions, is estimated to affect 7% of individuals older than 60 years and 40% of people older than 80 years. Chronic inflammation is one of the most important physiologic correlates of the frailty syndrome and high levels of proinflammatory cytokines, related to both aging and increasing adiposity in older individuals are related to an increased risk of mortality, sarcopenia, reduced muscle strength and decreased mobility.


Purpose: The purpose of this narrative review is to inform the physical therapist of the effects of aging and increasing adiposity on chronic inflammation and the association of inflammation with muscle loss, strength, and mobility impairments in older adults; and to review the current evidence to provide clinical recommendations on physical activity and exercise regimes that may mitigate chronic inflammation in older adults.


Discussion: As physical therapists help manage and treat an increasingly older population, understanding how the inflammatory milieu changes with aging and increasing adiposity and how these changes can be impacted by physical therapists via exercise and physical activity is critical.


Conclusion: Exercise is a potent preventive intervention strategy and countermeasure for chronic inflammation and adiposity. Exercise can also benefit the frail older individual by combating the negative effects of chronic inflammation and optimally balancing the production of pro and anti-inflammatory cytokines. In addition to providing an anti-inflammatory environment within muscle to mitigate the effects of chronic inflammation, exercise has the added benefit of improving muscle mass and function and decreasing adiposity in older adults.