Regular moderate exercise is associated with a reduced incidence of infection compared with a completely sedentary state. However, prolonged bouts of strenuous exercise cause a temporary depression of various aspects of immune function (e.g., neutrophil respiratory burst, lymphocyte proliferation, monocyte antigen presentation) that usually lasts ∼3–24 h after exercise, depending on the intensity and duration of the exercise bout. Postexercise immune function dysfunction is most pronounced when the exercise is continuous, prolonged (>1.5 h), of moderate to high intensity (55–75% maximum O2 uptake), and performed without food intake. Periods of intensified training (overreaching) lasting 1 wk or more may result in longer lasting immune dysfunction. Although elite athletes are not clinically immune deficient, it is possible that the combined effects of small changes in several immune parameters may compromise resistance to common minor illnesses, such as upper respiratory tract infection. However, this may be a small price to pay as the anti-inflammatory effects of exercise mediated through cytokines and/or downregulation of toll-like receptor expression are likely mediators of many of the long-term health benefits of regular exercise.
- Toll-like receptors
- Copyright © 2007 the American Physiological Society