Objective: Physical exercise is capable to enhance or suppress the immune response depending on the intensity and duration of exercise. We studied how exercise intensity influences the lymphocyte antioxidant response and the induction of cellular oxidative damage. Design: Eighteen voluntary male pre-professional soccer players participated in this study. Sportsmen played a 60 minutes training match, and were divided in three groups depending on the intensity degree during the match: low, medium and high intensities. Measurements: Malondialdehyde (MDA), vitamins C and E and heme oxigenase-1 (HO-1) gene expression were measured in lymphocytes. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) production were determined in lymphocytes and neutrophils. Results: Lymphocyte MDA levels and H2O2 production were significantly increased in the group which performed the most intense exercise. Neutrophil counts and ROS production increased progressively with the exercise intensity. Vitamin C significantly decreased after exercise in the highest intensity group respect to initial values, whereas vitamin E levels significantly increased in the medium and high intensity groups. HO-1 gene expression significantly increased in the medium and high intensity groups. Conclusions: Exercise intensity affects the lymphocyte and neutrophil oxidant/antioxidant balance, but only exercise of high intensity induces lymphocyte oxidative damage.
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