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Vol. 16, No. 4, 2009
Issue release date: May 2009
Neuroimmunomodulation 2009;16:237–244

Exercise Intensity-Dependent Changes in the Inflammatory Response in Sedentary Women: Role of Neuroendocrine Parameters in the Neutrophil Phagocytic Process and the Pro-/Anti-Inflammatory Cytokine Balance

Giraldo E. · Garcia J.J. · Hinchado M.D. · Ortega E.
Department of Physiology, Faculty of Sciences, University of Extremadura, Badajoz, Spain

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Background: It is still not really known what is the optimal level of exercise that improves, but does not impair or overstimulate the innate immune function. This is especially the case in women, who have higher basal levels of ‘inflammatory markers’ than men. The aim of this work was to evaluate differences in the magnitude of the stimulation of the innate/inflammatory response following a single bout of moderate or intense exercise in sedentary women, all of them in the follicular phase of their menstrual cycle. Changes in stress and sexual hormones were also evaluated. Methods: Changes induced by exercise (45 min at 55% VO2 max vs. 1 h at 70% VO2 max on a cycle ergometer) in the phagocytic process (chemotaxis, phagocytosis, and microbicide capacity against Candida albicans) and in serum concentrations of IL-1β, IL-2, IFN-γ, IL-12, IL-6, and IL-4 (ELISA) were evaluated. Parallel determinations were also made of serum or plasma concentrations of catecholamines (HPLC) and cortisol, oestradiol, and progesterone (electrochemiluminescence immunoassay). Results: Both exercise intensities increased chemotaxis, phagocytosis, and microbicide capacity of the neutrophils. However, the increase in chemotaxis was greater after moderate exercise. All the cytokines assayed were affected by exercise intensity. IFN-γ increased significantly only immediately after the intense exercise; IL-1β increased following both exercise intensities, although at 24 h it only remained elevated after the intense exercise; IL-12 only increased 24 h after the intense exercise, and IL-2 only showed a significant decrease following the moderate exercise. IL-6 increased immediately after both exercise intensities, but more so after moderate exercise. While IL-4 (an anti-inflammatory cytokine) increased following the moderate exercise, it decreased after the intense exercise. Both moderate and intense exercise increased norepinephrine and decreased cortisol, both of which returned to basal levels after 24 h. Only the intense exercise affected the epinephrine, oestradiol, and progesterone concentrations, with increases in epinephrine and oestradiol immediately after exercise, and a decrease in progesterone after 24 h. Conclusions: Both moderate and intense exercise stimulate the phagocytic process of neutrophils in sedentary women, but the profile of pro-/anti-inflammatory cytokine release seems to be better following the moderate exercise. The possible participation of stress (catecholamines and cortisol) and sex (oestradiol and progesterone) hormones in these intensity-dependent immune changes is discussed.

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