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Thyroid hormonal responses to intensive interval versus steady-state endurance exercise sessions

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To compare the thyroid hormonal responses to high-intensity interval exercise (IE) and steady-state endurance exercise (SEE) in highly trained males (n=15).


The IE session consisted of repeated periods of 90-seconds treadmill running at 100–110% VO2max and 90-seconds active recovery at 40% VO2max for 42–47 minutes. The SEE session was a 45-minute run at 60–65% VO2max. Total work output was equal for each session. A 45-minute supine rest control session (CON) was also performed. Pre-session (PRE), immediate post-session (POST), and 12-hours post-session (12POST) blood samples were collected and used to determine free (f) T4, fT3, reverse (r) T3, and cortisol levels.


All PRE hormone levels were within clinical norms and did not differ significantly between sessions. All POST IE and SEE hormone levels were significantly elevated compared to POST CON (p<0.001). At 12POST, no significant differences between CON and SEE hormonal levels were observed; however, fT3 was significantly reduced and rT3 was significantly elevated in 12POST IE compared to 12POST SEE and CON (p=0.022). For IE, at 12POST a negative correlation (rs = -0.70, p<0.004) was found between fT3 and rT3. Also, for IE, a positive correlation (rs = 0.74, p<0.002) between cortisol POST and rT3 12POST was noted, and a negative correlation (rs = -0.72, p<0.003) between cortisol POST and fT3 12POST.


IE results in a suppressed peripheral conversion of T4 to T3 implying that a longer recovery period is necessary for hormonal levels to return to normal following IE compared to SEE. These findings are useful in the implementation of training regimens relative to recovery needs and prevention of over-reaching -overtraining.

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Correspondence to Anthony C. Hackney.

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Hackney, A.C., Kallman, A., Hosick, K.P. et al. Thyroid hormonal responses to intensive interval versus steady-state endurance exercise sessions. Hormones 11, 54–60 (2012).

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