Kinetics of Physiological Responses as a Measure of Intensity and Hydration Status During Experimental Physical Stress in Human Volunteers

Shirley W. Kartaram, Klaske van Norren, Eric Schoen, Marc Teunis, Marco Mensink, Martie Verschuren, Laura M’Rabet, Isolde Besseling-van der Vaart, Karin Mohrmann, Harriet Wittink, Johan Garssen, Renger Witkamp, Raymond Pieters*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Introduction: Strenuous physical stress induces a range of physiological responses, the extent depending, among others, on the nature and severity of the exercise, a person’s training level and overall physical resilience. This principle can also be used in an experimental set-up by measuring time-dependent changes in biomarkers for physiological processes. In a previous report, we described the effects of workload delivered on a bicycle ergometer on intestinal functionality. As a follow-up, we here describe an analysis of the kinetics of various other biomarkers. Aim: To analyse the time-dependent changes of 34 markers for different metabolic and immunological processes, comparing four different exercise protocols and a rest protocol. Methods: After determining individual maximum workloads, 15 healthy male participants (20–35 years) started with a rest protocol and subsequently performed (in a cross-over design with 1-week wash-out) four exercise protocols of 1-h duration at different intensities: 70% Wmax in a hydrated and a mildly dehydrated state, 50% Wmax and intermittent 85/55% Wmax in blocks of 2 min. Perceived exertion was monitored using the Borg’ Rating of Perceived Exertion scale. Blood samples were collected both before and during exercise, and at various timepoints up to 24 h afterward. Data was analyzed using a multilevel mixed linear model with multiple test correction. Results: Kinetic changes of various biomarkers were exercise-intensity-dependent. Biomarkers included parameters indicative of metabolic activity (e.g., creatinine, bicarbonate), immunological and hematological functionality (e.g., leukocytes, hemoglobin) and intestinal physiology (citrulline, intestinal fatty acid-binding protein, and zonulin). In general, responses to high intensity exercise of 70% Wmax and intermittent exercise i.e., 55/85% Wmax were more pronounced compared to exercise at 50% Wmax. Conclusion: High (70 and 55/85% Wmax) and moderate (50% Wmax) intensity exercise in a bicycle ergometer test produce different time-dependent changes in a broad range of parameters indicative of metabolic activity, immunological and hematological functionality and intestinal physiology. These parameters may be considered biomarkers of homeostatic resilience. Mild dehydration intensifies these time-related changes. Moderate intensity exercise of 50% Wmax shows sufficient physiological and immunological responses and can be employed to test the health condition of less fit individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1006
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Publication statusPublished - 4 Sep 2020


  • biomarkers
  • dehydration
  • exercise-intensity
  • kinetics
  • physiological responses
  • resilience

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