European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 114, Issue 11, pp 2289–2297 | Cite as

Small-sided games training reduces CRP, IL-6 and leptin in sedentary, middle-aged men

  • Amy E. MendhamEmail author
  • Rob Duffield
  • Frank Marino
  • Aaron J. Coutts
Original Article



Long-term physical activity is reported to improve chronic systemic inflammation, which provides protection against the ensuing development of chronic disease. Accordingly, the present study assessed changes in pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines, aerobic capacity and body composition following 8 weeks of either small-sided games (SSG) or cycling (CYC) training compared to a sedentary control (CON) condition.


Thirty-three middle-aged, sedentary men were randomized into CYC (n = 11), SSG (n = 11), or CON (n = 11) conditions. The CYC and SSG conditions trained 3 days/week for 8 weeks, whilst CON maintained habitual activity and dietary patterns. Pre- and post-intervention testing included a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scan, sub-maximal (80 % maximal heart rate) aerobic capacity (VO2) and fasting venous blood. Venous blood measures for pro-inflammatory markers included C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin (IL)-6, IL-1β, tumor necrosis factor-α, and leptin; anti-inflammatory markers included IL-10, IL-1 receptor agonist, and adiponectin.


Both CYC and SSG increased submaximal power output and VO2 (P < 0.05), decreased total body fat-mass (TB-FM; P < 0.05), and CRP (SSG, −0.45 ± 0.42 mg L−1; P = 0.008; CYC, −0.44 ± 0.59 mg L−1; P = 0.02). Only SSG increased total body fat-free mass (TB-FFM; +1.1 ± 1.2 kg; P = 0.001) and decreased concentration of plasma IL-6 (−0.69 ± 0.62 pg mL−1; P = 0.002) and leptin (−2,212 ± 2,531 ng mL−1; P = 0.014).


Cycling and SSG training were both effective at improving CRP, VO2 and TB-FM. Furthermore, SSG training has also shown to be an effective training approach in reducing IL-6 and leptin and increasing muscle mass within sedentary, middle-aged men.


Obesity Body composition Inflammation Adiponectin Cytokines Cycling Football Team sports 



Body mass index




C-reactive protein


Cardiovascular disease




Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry


Glucose transporter 4


Global positioning satellite


Graded exercise test


Heart rate


Maximum heart rate






Oxygen consumption


Receptor agonist


Rating of perceived exertion


Revolutions per minute


Total body fat mass


Total-body fat-free mass


Tumor necrosis factor alpha


Type 2 diabetes mellitus


Small-sided games


Waist-to-hip ratio



The authors would like to acknowledge the Faculty of Education Grant, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst for providing the funding required for blood analysis. The authors would also like to acknowledge staff at Pathology, Bathurst Base Hospital NSW, Australia, and the Institutional staff at Charles Sturt University Exercise Physiology Laboratories, Bathurst, NSW for assistance and support involving blood analysis. The authors would also like to thank the participants and research assistants for their involvement in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amy E. Mendham
    • 1
    Email author
  • Rob Duffield
    • 2
  • Frank Marino
    • 1
  • Aaron J. Coutts
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Human Movement StudiesCharles Sturt UniversityBathurstAustralia
  2. 2.Sport and Exercise Discipline GroupUTS: Health, University of Technology Sydney (UTS)SydneyAustralia

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