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Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2015 Jul;47(7):1390-8. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000562.

Exercise Intensity and Duration Effects on In Vivo Immunity.

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1College of Health and Behavioural Sciences, Bangor University, Bangor, UNITED KINGDOM; 2Infection, Inflammation and Immunity Division, School of Medicine, University of Southampton, UNITED KINGDOM.



To examine the effects of intensity and duration of exercise stress on induction of in vivo immunity in humans using experimental contact hypersensitivity (CHS) with the novel antigen diphenylcyclopropenone (DPCP).


Sixty-four healthy males completed either 30 min running at 60% V˙O2peak (30MI), 30 min running at 80% V˙O2peak (30HI), 120 min running at 60% V˙O2peak (120MI), or seated rest (CON). Twenty min later, the subjects received a sensitizing dose of DPCP; and 4 wk later, the strength of immune reactivity was quantified by measuring the cutaneous responses to a low dose-series challenge with DPCP on the upper inner arm. Circulating epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol were measured before, after, and 1 h after exercise or CON. Next, to understand better whether the decrease in CHS response on 120MI was due to local inflammatory or T-cell-mediated processes, in a crossover design, 11 healthy males performed 120MI and CON, and cutaneous responses to a dose series of the irritant, croton oil (CO), were assessed on the upper inner arm.


Immune induction by DPCP was impaired by 120MI (skinfold thickness -67% vs CON; P < 0.05). However, immune induction was unaffected by 30MI and 30HI despite elevated circulating catecholamines (30HI vs pre: P < 0.01) and greater circulating cortisol post 30HI (vs CON; P < 0.01). There was no effect of 120MI on skin irritant responses to CO.


Prolonged moderate-intensity exercise, but not short-lasting high- or short-lasting moderate-intensity exercise, decreases the induction of in vivo immunity. No effect of prolonged moderate-intensity exercise on the skin's response to irritant challenge points toward a suppression of cell-mediated immunity in the observed decrease in CHS. Diphenylcyclopropenone provides an attractive tool to assess the effect of exercise on in vivo immunity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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