This study compared changes in plasma complement component 1q (C1q), apelin and adropin concentrations in older obese women after descending (DSW) and ascending stair walking (ASW) training (n = 15/group) performed twice a week for 12 weeks, with gradual increases in exercise time from 5 to 60 min. Fasting blood samples were collected 3 days before the first and 4 days after the last training session. The improvements in the maximal voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC) strength of the knee extensors, functional physical fitness [e.g., 30-s chair stand (CS) performance], resting systolic blood pressure (SBP), insulin sensitivity [e.g., oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT)] and blood lipid profiles [e.g., total cholesterol (TC)] were greater (p < 0.05) in the DSW than ASW group. Plasma C1q decreased (− 51 ± 30%), and apelin (23 ± 15%) and adropin (127 ± 106%) increased (p ≤.0.05) only after DSW. Significant (p ≤ 0.01) partial correlations were found between the pre- to post-DSW changes in C1q, apelin or adropin and changes in outcome measures [e.g., C1q and MVIC (r = − 0.837), apelin and SBP (r = − 0.854), and andropin and OGTT (r = − 0.729)]. These results showed that greater decreases in plasma C1q and greater increases in apelin and adropin concentrations were associated with greater improvements in outcome measures after DSW than after ASW.
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