Endurance exercise and DNA stability: is there a link to duration and intensity?
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It is commonly accepted that regular moderate intensity physical activity reduces the risk of developing many diseases. Counter intuitively, however, evidence also exists for oxidative stress resulting from acute and strenuous exercise. Enhanced formation of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species may lead to oxidatively modified lipids, proteins and nucleic acids and possibly disease. Currently, only a few studies have investigated the influence of exercise on DNA stability and damage with conflicting results, small study groups and the use of different sample matrices or methods and result units. This is the first review to address the effect of exercise of various intensities and durations on DNA stability, focusing on human population studies. Furthermore, this article describes the principles and limitations of commonly used methods for the assessment of oxidatively modified DNA and DNA stability. This review is structured according to the type of exercise conducted (field or laboratory based) and the intensity performed (i.e. competitive ultra/endurance exercise or maximal tests until exhaustion). The findings presented here suggest that competitive ultra-endurance exercise (>4 h) does not induce persistent DNA damage. However, when considering the effects of endurance exercise (<4 h), no clear conclusions could be drawn. Laboratory studies have shown equivocal results (increased or no oxidative stress) after endurance or exhaustive exercise. To clarify which components of exercise participation (i.e. duration, intensity and training status of subjects) have an impact on DNA stability and damage, additional carefully designed studies combining the measurement of DNA damage, gene expression and DNA repair mechanisms before, during and after exercise of differing intensities and durations are required.