European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 113, Issue 7, pp 1871–1882 | Cite as

Cytokine response to acute running in recreationally-active and endurance-trained men

  • Jonathan P. R. ScottEmail author
  • Craig Sale
  • Julie P. Greeves
  • Anna Casey
  • John Dutton
  • William D. Fraser
Original Article


To compare the cytokine response to exhaustive running in recreationally-active (RA) and endurance-trained (ET) men. Eleven RA men (VO2max 55 ± 7 mL·min−1·kg−1) and 10 ET men (VO2max 68 ± 7 mL·min−1·kg−1) followed a controlled diet and refrained from volitional exercise for 8 days. On the fourth day, participants completed 60 min of treadmill running (65 % VO2max), followed by intermittent running to exhaustion (70 % VO2max). Fasting blood was obtained at baseline, after 20, 40 and 60 min of exercise, at the end of intermittent exercise, during 2 h of recovery and on four follow-up days (FU1–FU4). Tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), interleukin-1β (IL-1β), interleukin-6 (IL-6), interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra) and creatine kinase (CK) were measured. Exercise increased the concentrations of all cytokines and CK, but there were no significant differences between groups. IL-1β increased (2.2–2.5-fold, P < 0.001) during exercise, while TNF-α was increased (1.6–2.0-fold, P < 0.001) during exercise and for 2 h post-exercise. IL-6 (71–84-fold, P < 0.001) and IL-1ra (52–64-fold, P < 0.001) were increased throughout exercise and up to FU1, peaking immediately after exercise and at 1.5–2 h post-exercise, respectively. CK concentrations were increased (P < 0.001) throughout exercise and up to FU4, peaking at FU1, but were not associated with changes in any cytokines. Exhaustive running resulted in modest and transient increases in TNF-α and IL-1β, and more marked and prolonged increases in IL-6 and IL-1ra, but improved training status did not affect this response. Increased CK might indicate either exercise-induced muscle cell disruption or increased cell permeability, although neither appears to have contributed to the increased cytokine concentrations.


Acute exercise Training status Tumour necrosis factor-α Interleukin-1β Interleukin-6 Interleukin-1 receptor antagonist 



Body mass index




Creatine kinase




Fixed duration


Fat-free mass


Intermittent, exhaustive exercise




Interleukin-1 receptor antagonist




Linear mixed model


Recreationally-active tumour


Tumour necrosis factor-alpha


Maximum oxygen uptake



The authors would like to acknowledge Mrs Anne Wright and Mr Nicholas Moon for their assistance with the collection of data, and all the subjects that participated in the study, without whose considerable effort, the study would not have been possible. The study was funded by the Human Capability Domain of the UK Ministry of Defence Scientific Research Programme. JPR Scott receives an Industrial Fellowship from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan P. R. Scott
    • 1
    Email author
  • Craig Sale
    • 2
  • Julie P. Greeves
    • 3
  • Anna Casey
    • 1
  • John Dutton
    • 4
  • William D. Fraser
    • 5
  1. 1.Human SciencesQinetiQ LtdFarnboroughUK
  2. 2.Biomedical, Life and Health Sciences Research Centre, School of Science and TechnologyNottingham Trent UniversityNottinghamUK
  3. 3.Department of Occupational MedicineHQ Army Recruiting and Training DivisionUpavonUK
  4. 4.Department of Musculoskeletal BiologyUniversity of LiverpoolLiverpoolUK
  5. 5.Norwich Medical SchoolUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK

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