Human leukocyte response to an endurance race

  • A. Vishnu Moorthy
  • Stephen W. Zimmerman


The response of circulating leukocytes (WBC's) with regard to changes in number, proportion of neutrophils versus lymphocytes and changes in lymphocyte function as well as proportions of T and B cells was studied in eleven men who ran a 20-mile race. A marked leukocytosis was noted 10–15 min after the race with the predominant increase being polymorphonuclear leukocytes (P<0.001). A significant rise in mean serum cortisol levels was also noted (P<0.001) which correlated with both the increase in total WBC's (P< 0.001) and granulocytes (P<0.001), but not lymphocytes. The increase in serum cortisol was inversely correlated with miles of prior training (P<0.001). An increase in lymphocytes from 1767±112/mm3 to 2431±202/mm3 was less than that previously described in short-term exercise. As with short-term exercise the most significant increase in lymphocytes was in “B” lymphocytes bearing surface immunoglobulin (P<0.0025). However, in contrast to short-term exercise lymphocytes maintained good in vitro response to the mitogen phytohemagglutinin.

This study demonstrates that endurance racing produces a more marked granulocytosis and less lymphocytosis than short bouts of exercise. It is suggested that the degree of leukocytosis is stress dependent in that it was positively correlated with serum cortisol and inversely correlated with prior training.

Key words

Leukocytosis Lymphocytes Endurance exercise 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Vishnu Moorthy
    • 1
  • Stephen W. Zimmerman
    • 1
  1. 1.Departments of Medicine and PathologyUniversity of Wisconsin Center for Health SciencesMadisonUSA

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