Changes in adrenal and testicular activity monitored by salivary sampling in males throughout marathon runs

  • N. J. Cook
  • G. F. Read
  • R. F. Walker
  • B. Harris
  • D. Riad-Fahmy


Measurement of cortisol and testosterone in saliva samples provided by marathon runners at 6.4 km (4-mile) intervals has been used for monitoring acute changes in adrenal and testicular activity, and the changes compared with mean values in timed samples on five rest days.

The collection of mixed whole saliva was well accepted; the missed sample rate in the 8 runners in the Cardiff marathon was less than 10%. On rest days, salivary cortisol and testosterone were within the normal male range and showed a circadian rhythm; mean values at 08.00 h (23.5 nmol L−1; 258 pmol L−1p<0.001, p<0.001 respectively) were higher than at 22.00 h (2.8 nmol L−1; 130 pmol L−1). In samples collected at 09.00 h, immediately prior to the Cardiff marathon, cortisol (25.1 nmol L−1) and testosterone (304 pmol L−1) were higher than the mean values (14.9 nmol L−1; 209 pmol L−1) on non-run days. Concentrations of both steroids increased during the marathon; testosterone peaked (442 pmol L−1) at 21 miles, whereas cortisol continued to increase, being maximal (87.9 nmol L−1) at 30 min after completion of the run. Four of the runners in the Cardiff marathon also participated in the Bristol marathon and the changing patterns in salivary hormones were strictly comparable.

Salivary sampling would appear to be of value in monitoring acute and rhythmic changes in endocrine function in marathon runners. The temporal relationship between changes in salivary cortisol and testosterone are consistent with direct inhibition of testicular secretion by high cortisol concentrations.

Key words

Saliva Marathon Exercise Cortisol Testosterone 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • N. J. Cook
  • G. F. Read
  • R. F. Walker
    • 1
  • B. Harris
    • 2
  • D. Riad-Fahmy
  1. 1.Tenovus Institute for Cancer ResearchUniversity of Wales College of Medicine, The HeathCardiff
  2. 2.Department of Psychological MedicineUniversity of Wales College of Medicine, The HeathCardiffGreat Britain

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