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Horm Metab Res. 2010 Dec;42(13):982-6. doi: 10.1055/s-0030-1267950. Epub 2010 Nov 4.

Effect of resistance exercise on serum levels of growth factors in humans.

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Institute of Movement and Neurosciences, German Sport University Cologne, Cologne, Germany.


Studies have shown that, depending on intensity, endurance exercise increases neurotrophins and thereby induces neuroplasticity. However, data on the effect of acute resistance exercise at different intensities on neurotrophins is not yet available. Thus, we conducted 2 trials to determine the serum concentrations of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) before and after a low or high intensity resistance exercise in 11 healthy humans. Exercise load was related to 3 repetitions of maximal effort isokinetic work involving knee extension under alternating concentric and eccentric conditions for muscle work at a velocity of 60°s-1 registered during a familiarization session. The torque angle diagrams from these 3 repetitions were averaged and displayed as target curves in the test sessions, the intensity of resistance exercise was set at 40% (trial: R1) or 110% (trial: R2) of the averaged individual maximal effort curve, respectively. After resistance exercise, serum IGF-1 was increased significantly (p<0.01) by 28% in R1 and 16% in R2 compared to pre-exercise levels. Resistance exercise did not increase serum VEGF at any time point. Serum BDNF increased during exercise compared to post-exercise, but did not achieve significant difference from pre-exercise values. The present study shows that either low or high resistance exercise increases levels of IGF-1, but not of BDNF or VEGF. This finding is of importance for health promotion by means of resistance exercise because circulating serum IGF-1 has been demonstrated to mediate positive effects of exercise on brain functions.

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