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Sepsis and mechanisms of inflammatory response: is exercise a good model?
  1. R J Shephard
  1. Faculty of Physical Education and Health and Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Toronto and Defence and Civil Institute of Environmental Medicine, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to: Professor Shephard, PO Box 521, Brackendale, BC V0N 1H0, Canada royjshep{at}


Objectives—The immune changes induced by a bout of prolonged and vigorous exercise have been suggested to be a useful experimental model of sepsis and the inflammatory response. Available literature was reviewed to evaluate this hypothesis.

Methods—Literature describing the immune response to various patterns of exercise was compared with data on the immune changes observed during sepsis and inflammation.

Results—Although there are qualitative similarities between the immune responses to exercise and sepsis, the magnitude of the changes induced by most forms of exercise remains much smaller than in a typical inflammatory response. Indeed, the exercise induced changes in some key elements such as plasma cytokine concentrations are too small to be detected reliably by current technology.

Conclusions—If exercise is to provide a valid model of sepsis and the inflammatory response, it will be necessary to focus on subjects who are willing to exercise extremely hard, to use the pattern of exercise that has the greatest effect on the immune system, and to combine this stimulus with other psychological, environmental, or nutritional stressors.

  • sepsis
  • inflammatory response
  • exercise
  • cytokines
  • endorphins
  • immune function
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