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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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January 04, 2008

Work Out Wearing You Out?

By Worker Bee
13 Comments

Lack of sleep, stress, not washing your hands, going out the door with damp hair (according to my Mum at least). The common thread? Things that can make you sick.

Now add working out to that list.

Yep, according to researchers at Australia’s Griffith University, elite athletes may be more susceptible to harmful pathogens than their couch potato counterparts.

For the study, the researchers compared levels of the salivary proteins lactoferrin and lysozyme—which are thought to prevent microbes from infecting the body and serve as a measure of the body’s immune response—in elite rowers and sedentary individuals. Across the five-month study period, the researchers determined that exercise significantly reduces lactoferrin concentration, leaving the body more susceptible to infection.

Theoretically, exercise is a stress on the body and leads to greater susceptibility to illness. The decrease in salivary proteins, one of the body’s first lines of defense against infection, may help explain this.

via Science Daily

However, in a second study comparing the salivary protein concentration of rowers during various forms of exercise and at rest, it was determined that proteins—and therefore immune response—spiked immediately following exercise.

While this study certainly shouldn’t be considered a get-out-of-jail-free card for ditching your new year’s resolution (and diving head first into a bag of Doritos), it might be worthwhile to consider laying off the treadmill if everyone around you is falling ill with the flu.

yuan2003 Flickr Photo

Further Reading:

A Case Against Cardio

Art De Vany and Mark on Doping, Endurance and Health

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13 Comments on "Work Out Wearing You Out?"

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Moe
Moe
8 years 8 months ago

This study sucks, Mark. ‘Elite’ rowers must be doing hours upon hours of exercise. A better study would be to compare sickness rates among those that are sedentary to those that do minor to moderate amounts of exercise (30 mins/3x a week). That would be more definitive and applicable.

Mark
8 years 8 months ago

Moe –
The article in no way was meant to suggest that exercise in and of itself is unhealthy. As our Worker Bee clearly stated “elite athletes may be more susceptible to harmful pathogens than their couch potato counterparts.” I agree that your suggested study would probably provide more applicable results. Nevertheless, this study does speak to a point I have made a number of times in the past – simply that over-training can be detrimental to your health.

charlotte
8 years 8 months ago

Mark – I think you should add a PS to the post then because my first thought upon reading this was along the same line as Moe’s: their exercise only lowered their immune response because they are “elite athletes”. And how much exercise a day were they doing, exactly? And at what intensity? There are lots of studies that show that for the average joe, exercise actually helps you avoid the traditional colds and flus. Also: Purel:)

Mark
8 years 8 months ago
I get this from all my endurance buddies all the time. “Why are you ragging on exercise?” Well, I’m not. But I AM saying that too much exercise – even or especially if you are an elite athlete – comes with a cost. Maybe taking more antioxidants can help. But the bottom line is that too much of a good thing can turn bad. The “Primal Blueprint” suggests that we spend more time doing low level aerobic stuff and occasionally brief periods of intense bursts of speed, along with some weights. These rowers were what I call “chronic trainers.” I… Read more »
charlotte
8 years 8 months ago

Ooooh! You are writing a book? I’m very excited about this! Post more details when it is available for purchase!!

And I do understand your point about too MUCH exercise. After all, your cardio diet literally worked wonders for me and I preach your gospel at my gym on a regular basis:)

Thanks for clarifying in your comment – that’s not what I got from my initial read of this post but I get it now.

Moe
Moe
8 years 8 months ago

Sweet. Let us know about that book 😉

Matt Emery
8 years 8 months ago

I absolutely agree, when i’m training hard I make sure to take Echinacea and Olive Leaf Extract.
I’ve literally felt my immune system drop after consistent heavy training, and it’s a terrible feeling.

Crossfit anyone?

Moe
Moe
8 years 8 months ago

Weights, sprints, and morning walks keep me strong as an ox. Never really looked into crossfit… what type of training do you do?

Wayne
Wayne
8 years 8 months ago

I think you need to lighten up a bit Moe.

Brian A
Brian A
8 years 8 months ago

I think this would create a risk for ‘chronically-trained’ marathoners when hanging out in crowds of infected public at airports, on the plane, and at the pasta party, runner’s expo, and awards banquet.

Donna
Donna
8 years 8 months ago

I used to exercise way too much. I was just over doing it. Over the past few years i’ve really worked at becoming “BALANCED” in life. I’ve learned that not over doing results in less stress.

Mark, i’m excited about your upcoming book, i’ll definitely be looking for it!!!!

Crystal
Crystal
8 years 8 months ago

I continue with weights but cut my cardio in half or less. Trying to do intervals though.
One way to figure out if exercise is hurting you is to take your temperature before exercise and then a few minutes or so after. If the temp. goes down, maybe you’ve over done it. My temp. today was low, as usual, and then dropped to 95 after exercise. Oops.

Donna
Donna
8 years 8 months ago

I’ve always made a habit after i work out to eat protein and drink a glass of water with a fresh squeezed lemon!

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