Objective: Sports practice alters the homeostasis of athletes. To achieve homeostatic equilibrium, the integrated action of the neuroendocrine and immune systems is necessary. Here we studied the relation between cytokines, hormones and mood states in marathon runners. Methods: A total of 20 male recreational marathon runners (mean age = 35.7 ± 9 years) and 20 male sedentary individuals (mean age = 35.5 ± 7 years) were recruited. We compared the serum levels of growth hormone (GH), cortisol and interleukins 8 and 10 and the amounts of these two cytokines spontaneously produced by peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Blood samples of the sedentary group were collected at rest. Blood from the marathon runners was collected at rest (baseline: 24 h before the race), immediately after a marathon and 72 h after a marathon. Mood state analysis in both groups was performed using the 24-item Brunel Mood Scale (BRUMS). Results: Our results showed that, at rest, levels of interleukins 8 and 10 in the supernatant of culture cells, the serum concentration of GH, and tension and vigour (evaluated using the BRUMS), were significantly higher in athletes compared to sedentary people. Immediately after the race all serum parameters analysed were statistically higher than baseline values. At 72 h after the marathon, serum levels of hormones and interleukins returned to values at rest, but the concentrations of interleukins in the supernatant of culture cells showed a significant reduction compared to values at rest. Conclusion: The higher serum levels of GH in athletes at rest and the higher production of cytokines in culture without previous stimulus suggest that marathon runners present mechanisms that may be associated with preparing the body to perform prolonged strenuous exercise, such as a marathon.

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