Exercise and resistance to infection

Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 1998 May;76(5):573-80. doi: 10.1139/cjpp-76-5-573.


Epidemiological data suggest that endurance athletes are at increased risk for upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) during periods of heavy training and the 1- to 2-week period following race events. Moderate exercise training has been associated with a reduction in incidence of URTI. There is growing evidence that for several hours subsequent to heavy exertion, several components of both the innate (e.g., natural killer cell activity and neutrophil oxidative burst activity) and adaptive (e.g., T and B cell function) immune system exhibit suppressed function. The immune response to heavy exertion is transient, and further research on the mechanisms underlying the immune response to prolonged and intensive endurance exercise is necessary before meaningful clinical applications can be drawn. Some attempts have been made through chemical or nutritional means (e.g., indomethacin, glutamine, vitamin C, and carbohydrate supplementation) to attenuate immune changes following intensive exercise to lower the risk of infection.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance
  • Physical Fitness
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / epidemiology
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / immunology*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / prevention & control
  • Risk
  • Running / physiology