Int J Sports Med 1989; 10(5): 317-323
DOI: 10.1055/s-2007-1024921
© Georg Thieme Verlag Stuttgart · New York

Effects of Long-Endurance Running on Immune System Parameters and Lymphocyte Function in Experienced Marathoners

D. C. Nieman, L. S. Berk, M. Simpson-Westerberg, K. Arabatzis, S. Youngberg, S. A. Tan, J. W. Lee, W. C. Eby
  • Department of Health Science, School of Public Health
    Departments of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and Medicine, School of Medicine, Loma Linda University
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Publication History

Publication Date:
14 March 2008 (online)


The extent and duration of changes in leukocyte subsets, lymphocyte subpopulations, spontaneous blastogenesis, cortisol, and catecholamines were measured in ten experienced marathoners, who ran 3 h to exhaustion in a laboratory setting. Blood samples were taken at baseline, 1 h of exercise, and 5 min, 1.5 h, 6 h, and 21 h of recovery. The 3-h endurance run was associated with significant leukocytosis, granulocytosis, neutrophilia, monocytosis, and eosinopenia during recovery. All of these parameters except for eosinophils returned to normal by 21 h of recovery. Total lymphocyte count increased 31% at 1 h of exercise, then decreased 19% at 1.5 h of recovery when compared with baseline values. T cell count showed no significant changes, but B cell lymphocytosis was measured at 5 min and 6 h of recovery. T helper/T suppressor ratio (H/S) was significantly elevated 39% at both 1.5 h and 21 h of recovery due to the decrease in number of T suppressor cells. Spontaneous blastogenesis was significantly increased 52% by 1 h of exercise and remained elevated throughout recovery. The increase in cortisol from baseline to 1.5 h of recovery correlated positively with the increase in both total leukocyte count (r=0.78, P=0.008) and granulocyte count (r=0.81, P=0.005). Our results suggest that exhaustive endurance exercise in marathon runners is associated with many significant perturbations in immune system parameters, most of which return to normal levels at 21 h of recovery.