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European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 84, Issue 4, pp 358–366 | Cite as

Active recovery and post-exercise white blood cell count, free fatty acids, and hormones in endurance athletes

  • Ine Wigernæs
  • Arne T. Høstmark
  • Sigmund B. Strømme
  • Peter Kierulf
  • Kåre Birkeland
Original Article

Abstract

Strenuous endurance exercise in fasted subjects is accompanied by increased plasma levels of catecholamines, leucocytosis, low insulin, and elevated plasma free fatty acids (FFA). Immediately after such exercise, plasma FFA may rise to high and potentially harmful levels, whereas the white blood cell count (WBCC) rapidly decreases towards or below baseline values. The present work investigated how active recovery (AR) for 15 min at 50% of maximal oxygen consumption (\(\dot V{\rm O}_{{\rm 2max}} \) ), after 60 min of uphill running at 83% of \(\dot V{\rm O}_{{\rm 2max}} \) , influenced plasma FFA, lymphocyte, neutrophil, granulocyte, and monocyte count, as well as adrenaline, noradrenaline, insulin and cortisol concentrations until 120 min post-exercise. Thirteen endurance athletes participated in the study [24.2 (3.7) years, 1.82 (0.06) m, 76.7 (7.9) kg and \(\dot V{\rm O}_{{\rm 2max}} \) 69.2 (6.8) ml min–1 kg–1]. In a randomized order, the subjects completed two sets of strenuous workouts, followed by either AR or complete rest in the supine position (RR). Compared with RR, AR strongly counteracted the rapid increase in plasma FFA 5 min post-exercise. The decreases in neutrophil and monocyte counts post-exercise were nullified by AR, and the cell count stayed above resting values throughout the observation period. AR also counteracted the rapid return of hormone concentration towards baseline levels. It would appear that active recovery at low intensity after strenuous exercise can maintain sufficient adrenergic activation to counteract the post-exercise drop in WBCC. However, in spite of keeping the catecholamine concentration high and insulin levels low, AR can also maintain a low plasma FFA concentration, probably because of the continued use of FFA in muscle. It remains to be elucidated whether the observed high FFA and low WBCC values after RR have a negative effect on health. If so, AR could be a preventive measure.

Light concentric activity after exercise Metabolic and immune variables 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ine Wigernæs
    • 1
  • Arne T. Høstmark
    • 2
  • Sigmund B. Strømme
    • 1
  • Peter Kierulf
    • 3
  • Kåre Birkeland
    • 4
  1. 1.The Norwegian University of Sports and Physical Education, 0806 Oslo, NorwayNorway
  2. 2.Institute of General Practice and Community Medicine, Department of Preventive Medicine, University of Oslo, 0033, NorwayNorway
  3. 3.The Research and Development group, Clinical Chemical Department, Ullevaal University Hospital, 0407 Oslo, NorwayNorway
  4. 4.Hormone Laboratory, Aker Hospital, 0514 Oslo, NorwayNorway

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