The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of exercise intensity and exercise-induced muscle damage on changes in anti-inflammatory cytokines and other inflammatory mediators. Nine well-trained male runners completed three different exercise trials on separate occasions: (1) level treadmill running at 60% V̇O2max (moderate-intensity trial) for 60 min; (2) level treadmill running at 85% for V̇O2max 60 min; (3) downhill treadmill running (-10% gradient) at 60% V̇O2max (downhill running trial) for 45 min. Blood was sampled before, immediately after and 1 h after exercise. Plasma was analyzed for interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra), IL-4, IL-5, IL-10, IL-12p40, IL-13, monocyte chemotactic protein-1 (MCP-1), prostaglandin E2, leukotriene B4 and heat shock protein 70 (HSP70). The plasma concentrations of IL-1ra, IL-12p40, MCP-1 and HSP70 increased significantly (P < 0.05) after all three trials. Plasma prostaglandin E2 concentration increased significantly after the downhill running and high-intensity trials, while plasma IL-10 concentration increased significantly only after the high-intensity trial. IL-4 and leukotriene B4 did not increase significantly after exercise. Plasma IL-1ra and IL-10 concentrations were significantly higher (P < 0.05) after the high-intensity trial than after both the moderate-intensity and downhill running trials. Therefore, following exercise up to 1 h duration, exercise intensity appears to have a greater effect on anti-inflammatory cytokine production than exercise-induced muscle damage.
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