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Int J Exerc Sci. 2017 Jul 1;10(4):531-540. eCollection 2017.

Cortisol and Alpha-amylase changes during an Ultra-Running Event.

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Department of Natural Sciences, Northeastern State University, Broken Arrow, OK, USA.
Medical Laboratory Sciences, Northeastern State University, Broken Arrow, OK, USA.


Elevated stress hormone concentrations can positively affect an athlete's overall performance during a competition, and in many cases, are necessary to be able to perform exercise. During extreme exercise, the body's ability to utilize energy efficiently can affect an athlete's performance. Elevated hormonal concentrations can have many benefits in regards to an athlete's overall performance during a competition. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of long distance running, such as seen during an ultra-running event (distances beyond 26.2 miles), on the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis production of cortisol (CORT) as compared to autonomic nervous system production of salivary alpha-amylase (AA). Despite the well-known effects of exercise on CORT and AA response, it is unclear what effect running beyond the marathon distance has on these levels. This study investigates what effect long duration cardio exercise, such as running up to 100K (kilometers) distance, has on the neuroendocrine system, by means of saliva samples provided by participants signed up for an ultra-marathon event. The findings of this study show that the autonomic nervous system may present a response signal during physical stress that is independent of the HPA axis response. At distances beyond the marathon length, the production of CORT and AA was found to be suppressed for athletes, which could help them in their continued performance. Furthermore, this study recognizes a difference in the overall male and female response to stress in regards to CORT and AA production.


Autonomic nervous system and exercise; cortisol and running; elevated levels of cortisol; physiological stress of running


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