European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 112, Issue 11, pp 3765–3773 | Cite as

Reproductive hormones and interleukin-6 in serious leisure male athletes

  • Leah Z. FitzGeraldEmail author
  • Wendie A. Robbins
  • James S. Kesner
  • Lin Xun
Original Article


Lifestyles associated with different types and intensities of exercise result in improved health including positive changes in chronic low-grade inflammatory biomarkers. Alternatively, some forms of exercise adversely affect reproductive health of men, including changes in circulating reproductive hormones. To explore the associations between exercise intensity and circulating levels of reproductive hormones, and inflammatory analytes in serious leisure athletes (triathletes and cyclists) and recreational athletes. Male athletes 18–60 years old, 16 triathletes, 46 cyclists and 45 recreational athletes, were recruited to provide plasma for the measurement of total testosterone, estradiol, follicular stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone (LH), sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), cortisol, interleukin-6 (IL-6), and interleukin-1β (IL-1β) levels, and calculation of free androgen index (FAI) and the estradiol:SHBG ratio (ESR). Plasma estradiol concentrations were more than two times higher in cyclists than in triathletes and recreational athletes (p < 0.01). Testosterone levels were also higher in cyclists than recreational athletes (p < 0.01), but not significantly different from triathletes. SHBG levels were higher in triathletes and cyclists than in recreational athletes (p < 0.01). LH levels were lower in cyclists than in recreational athletes (p < 0.05). IL-6 and IL-1β levels were each two times lower in triathletes than in cyclists (p < 0.05) and IL-6 levels were lower in cyclists than in recreational athletes (p < 0.01). IL-1β levels were two times lower in triathletes than in cyclists (p < 0.05). Circulating estradiol and testosterone levels were elevated in serious leisure male cyclists. This effect is discussed in light in the absence of a substantial concomitant change in gonadotropin levels and other variables.


Estradiol Testosterone Reproductive hormones Men Serious leisure athletes Cytokines Interleukin 



We would like to acknowledge the research participants, the General Clinical Research Center (GCRC) nursing staff at UCLA for their support and Mauricio Pena for his support in preparing the data for this manuscript.

Conflict of interest

The authors are not aware of any conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leah Z. FitzGerald
    • 1
    • 4
    Email author
  • Wendie A. Robbins
    • 1
    • 2
  • James S. Kesner
    • 3
  • Lin Xun
    • 1
  1. 1.School of NursingUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.School of Public HealthUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Division of Applied Research and Technology, Centers for Disease Control and PreventionNational Institute for Occupational Safety and HealthCincinnatiUSA
  4. 4.UCLA School of NursingLos AngelesUSA

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