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Marathon Running and Immune Response

Studies show that many components of the immune system exhibit changes after marathon-type exertion, specifically the blood natural killer (NK) cells, neutrophils, and macrophages. This may increase the risk of infection. Except for carbohydrate beverages, nutritional supplements do not appear to have an effect on exertion-induced immune suppression, but other commonsense measures, such as eating a well-balanced diet and getting regular sleep, do have a positive effect.

Exercise Immunology

One of the earliest studies in exercise immunology, published in 1902, reported a large increase in blood neutrophils in 4 athletes who ran the 1901 Boston Marathon. Researchers observed that the exertion had gone far beyond the physiological limits and that changes in the white blood cell differential counts paralleled those seen in certain diseased and inflammatory conditions.

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