The effects of exercise on susceptibility to respiratory infection were determined by using a murine model of intranasal challenge with herpes simplex type 1 virus (HSV-1). Two doses of treadmill exercise were assessed: moderate short-term (30 min) exercise and prolonged strenuous exercise to voluntary fatigue (2.5-3.5 h). Morbidity and mortality among exercised and control mice were compared after intranasal challenge with HSV-1. We also assessed the ability of alveolar macrophages to restrict HSV-1 viral replication (intrinsic resistance) among exercise and control groups of mice at several time points postexercise. Exercise to fatigue followed by exposure to viral infection resulted in greater morbidity and mortality than either no exercise or short-term moderate exercise. In addition, antiviral resistance of macrophages obtained from the lungs of both exercised groups was suppressed, albeit for a longer duration in the fatigued group. These data are particularly important in that they identify an exercise-induced decrease in antiviral resistance of a specific component of the immune system within the lungs, in conjunction with increased susceptibility to respiratory infection in vivo. The specific mechanism of decreased antiviral resistance of alveolar macrophages and its role in respiratory infection after exercise remains to be determined.