Int J Sports Med 1994; 15(4): 199-206
DOI: 10.1055/s-2007-1021047
© Georg Thieme Verlag Stuttgart · New York

Effect of High- Versus Moderate-Intensity Exercise on Lymphocyte Subpopulations and Proliferative Response

D. C. Nieman, A. R. Miller, D. A. Henson, B. J. Warren, G. Gusewitch, R. L. Johnson, J. M. Davis, D. E. Butterworth, J. L. Herring, S. L. Nehlsen-Cannarella
  • Departments of Health, Leisure, and Exercise Science, Biology, Appalachian State University; Immunology Center, Loma Linda University Medical Center; Department of Exercise Science, University of South Carolina
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Publication History

Publication Date:
14 March 2008 (online)


The effect of 45 min of high- (80% V̇O2max) versus moderate- (50% V̇O2max) intensity treadmill exercise on circulating leukocyte and lymphocyte subpopulations, catecholamine and cortisol concentrations, and the mitogen-stimulated lymphocyte proliferative response was investigated in 10 well-conditioned (mean V̇O2max 66.0±1.9ml/kg/min), young males (mean age 22.1±1.3 yrs). Blood samples were taken before and immediately after exercise, with three more samples taken during 3.5 h of recovery. Treatment order on the treadmill (graded walking at 7.3±0.1 km/h, 6.5±0.6% grade, versus level running at 16.1±0.3 km/h) was counterbalanced, with subjects acting as their own controls and results analyzed using a 2 × 5 repeated measures ANOVA. The concanavalin A- (Con A) stimulated lymphocyte proliferative response was decreased at 1 h and 2 h post-exercise relative to baseline levels following both exercise-intensity conditions. However, when adjusted on a per-T cell (CD3+) basis to account for the change in number of T cells in the in vitro assay, only the high-intensity exercise condition was associated with a 1-h post-exercise decrease (21%, p = 0.05) in the proliferative response relative to baseline. Exercise at 80% versus 50% V̇O2max resulted in significantly greater increases in cortisol and epinephrine concentrations, providing a physiological rationale for the immediate-post-exercise lymphocytosis, 1- to 3.5-h lymphocytopenia, and the decrease in Con A-stimulated lymphocyte proliferative response (per CD3+ cell) that occurred in greater measure following high-intensity exercise.