Aim: The mechanism linking exercise intensity to the magnitude of the immune response is not completely understood. The purpose of this investigation was to determine whether the immune response to resistance exercise was associated with (1) changes in workload or (2) anaerobic exercise intensity. Methods: Previously untrained women underwent 6 months of resistance training for lower and upper body (TOTAL, n = 34) or for upper body alone (UPPER, n = 30). Lymphocyte subsets [T (CD3+), CD4+, CD8+, NK and B], functional markers (CD45RA+ and CD45RO+), and mitogen (phytohemagglutinin-M, concanavalin A and pokeweed mitogen) and superantigen (staphylococcus a. cowans)-stimulated proliferation were measured from blood samples collected pre- and post-exercise for a squat resistance exercise consisting of six sets of 10 repetitions at 75% of one repetition maximum. This protocol was performed before (T0) and after 3 (T3) and 6 months (T6) of training. Results: Lymphocyte recruitment to the circulation and proliferation following resistance exercise did not differ between training groups at any time, although the TOTAL group performed at a higher workload as training progressed. With respect to anaerobic intensity, exercise-induced increases in NK, CD4+, CD8+ and B lymphocyte concentrations were 42 (P = 0.07), 76 (P < 0.05), 72 (P < 0.05) and 242% (P < 0.01) greater in women in the highest compared with the lowest post-exercise lactate quartiles. Lymphocyte proliferation did not differ between lactate quartiles. Conclusions: Anaerobic intensity, rather than increased strength and workload, is associated with the number of lymphocytes recruited to the circulation, but not T and B cell proliferation responses.
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