Immune changes induced by exercise in an adverse environment

Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 1998 May;76(5):539-46. doi: 10.1139/cjpp-76-5-539.


Both physical activity and exposure to environmental stressors such as cold, heat, and high altitudes modify various components of immune function: T cell counts, natural killer (NK) cell counts, and cytolytic activity, cytokine secretion, lymphocyte proliferation and immunoglobulin levels. Light physical activity or a moderate level of environmental stress stimulate the immune response, but exhausting physical activity or more severe environmental stress have a suppressant effect, manifested by a temporary increase in susceptibility to viral infections. Combinations of physical activity and environmental stress generally have at least an additive effect. Thus, an intensity of physical activity or of environmental stress that is beneficial in itself can readily cause immunosuppression if the body is challenged by the two stimuli simultaneously.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Altitude
  • Animals
  • Cold Temperature / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Hot Temperature / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance*
  • Immunity*
  • Immunity, Cellular
  • Space Flight
  • Stress, Physiological / immunology