Infectious episodes in runners before and after a roadrace

J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 1989 Sep;29(3):289-96.


Various researchers have implied that regular and moderate exercise training may improve the ability of the immune system to protect the host from infection. In contrast, acute, maximal, and exhaustive exercise may have negative effects of the immune system. This study compared the incidence of infectious episodes in 273 runners during a two month training period prior to a 5 K, 10 K, or half-marathon race. In addition, the effect of the race experience on infectious episodes was studied. Twenty-five percent of the runners training more than 15 miles per week reported at least one infectious episode as compared with 34.3% of runners training less than 15 miles per week (p = 0.09). Only 6.8% of the runners preparing for the half-marathon race reported becoming sick with the flu versus 17.9% of the 5 K and 10 K runners (p = 0.067). During the week following the roadrace, runners did not report an increase in infectious episodes as compared to the week prior to the race. These trends suggest that runners with a more serious commitment to regular exercise may experience less infectious episodes than recreational runners because of both direct and indirect affects on immunosurveillance. In addition, the stressful race experience does not appear to increase risk of acquiring an acute respiratory infection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immune System / physiology
  • Infections / epidemiology*
  • Infections / immunology
  • Male
  • Running*