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J Exp Biol. 2012 May 15;215(Pt 10):1615-25. doi: 10.1242/jeb.067470.

Redox biology of exercise: an integrative and comparative consideration of some overlooked issues.

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  • 1Exercise Physiology and Biochemistry Laboratory, Department of Physical Education and Sports Science at Serres, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, 62110 Serres, Greece.


The central aim of this review is to address the highly multidisciplinary topic of redox biology as related to exercise using an integrative and comparative approach rather than focusing on blood, skeletal muscle or humans. An attempt is also made to re-define 'oxidative stress' as well as to introduce the term 'alterations in redox homeostasis' to describe changes in redox homeostasis indicating oxidative stress, reductive stress or both. The literature analysis shows that the effects of non-muscle-damaging exercise and muscle-damaging exercise on redox homeostasis are completely different. Non-muscle-damaging exercise induces alterations in redox homeostasis that last a few hours post exercise, whereas muscle-damaging exercise causes alterations in redox homeostasis that may persist for and/or appear several days post exercise. Both exhaustive maximal exercise lasting only 30 s and isometric exercise lasting 1-3 min (the latter activating in addition a small muscle mass) induce systemic oxidative stress. With the necessary modifications, exercise is capable of inducing redox homeostasis alterations in all fluids, cells, tissues and organs studied so far, irrespective of strains and species. More importantly, 'exercise-induced oxidative stress' is not an 'oddity' associated with a particular type of exercise, tissue or species. Rather, oxidative stress constitutes a ubiquitous fundamental biological response to the alteration of redox homeostasis imposed by exercise. The hormesis concept could provide an interpretative framework to reconcile differences that emerge among studies in the field of exercise redox biology. Integrative and comparative approaches can help determine the interactions of key redox responses at multiple levels of biological organization.

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